Frequently Asked Questions
Linked below are charts that show enrollment trends for our schools and district as a whole for the last ten years. Following an increase of more than 25% between 2003 and 2014, enrollment growth overall has slowed considerably in the last eight years. However, the distribution of our elementary schools has changed with Old Bonhomme and Spoede Elementary Schools now having considerably higher enrollment than Conway and Reed Elementary Schools.
- K-4 Elementary Enrollment (since opening of the Fifth Grade Center in 2013)
- Fifth Grade Center, Ladue Middle School and Ladue Horton Watkins High School Enrollment
- Total District Enrollment
Not only is enrollment considerably higher at Old Bonhomme and Spoede, the Conway and Reed Elementary Schools facilities have two additional distinct advantages, despite being older than the other two schools. The classrooms, on average, are considerably larger and the architecture of these buildings is such that there is a great deal of natural light throughout most of the buildings.
The enrollment at Ladue Middle School has remained relatively flat for the last ten years, and while some additional classrooms are needed, the major challenge is the size of the classrooms. They were built for desks in rows and are much smaller than today’s teaching and learning styles require.
In short, with these improvements, we are addressing “tightness” that has existed for a long time at Old Bonhomme, Spoede and Ladue Middle School, not recent, significant increases in enrollment.
Maintaining our district facilities and ensuring they are designed to support and maintain our district’s tradition of educational excellence will always be a priority. However, one of the primary reasons our Board of Education pursued the projects included in Prop 1 is that, by completing them, all district schools will be considered future ready. In other words, there is no foreseeable reason why additional requests of our taxpayers will need to be made for many years to come once these final projects are completed.
Tax rates fluctuate based on a number of factors. When the district requests additional taxpayer support in order to meet operating expenses or to make major improvements to facilities, taxpayers must approve this additional funding through a vote. However, tax levies are applied to property values, and when property values rise, the levies are often reduced so that the district’s funding (and the taxpayer’s tax bill) is not increased significantly.
In 2012, voters approved an increase in the district’s operating levy after property values (and therefore district operating funds) dropped significantly due to the Great Recession. As this chart illustrates, despite passing an $85.1 bond referendum in 2016 to renovate the high school, the district’s total tax rate (operating and debt service levies combined) is currently lower than it was when the operating levy was increased eight years ago.
It is anticipated that with the rise in property values in the next assessment cycle, the operating levy will once again be reduced.
The bonds sold as a result of passing Proposition L will be 20-year bonds. That being said, when the district identifies opportunities to restructure the debt to reduce the cost, the term can sometimes be shortened.
Payments for previous bond issues passed prior to Prop L will be complete by 2031 and 2036. Of the current $0.78, approximately half of the levy ($.39) will be eliminated beginning in 2031, with the remaining ($0.39) being eliminated in 2036. Please note that these exact figures are for example only. Market conditions, property tax values and a number of other factors will play into the exact rate reductions and timing.
COVID-19 has reinforced the need for educational settings to have ample space for distancing, as well as features that promote and allow frequent hand sanitizing. The following features are included in the designs currently under consideration.
- Hand washing stations near or in the gyms, cafeterias, playgrounds, entrances and exits.
- Wet labs with sinks in all classroom “pods” so that staff and students don’t have to go to a restroom to wash their hands.
- Larger classrooms that are more conducive to social distancing, as well as today’s teaching and learning best practices.
- Outdoor learning spaces.
- Touchless (hands-free) sensors on all faucets and toilets.
- Advanced air filtration systems which bring in more fresh air while also treating and filtering recycled air.
It is certainly our hope that the pandemic will pose much less risk to our students and staff by the time any of our schools are under construction. However, S.M. Wilson, the district’s selected construction management firm, has had to develop extensive plans as the company continued to work throughout the pandemic. These strategies will remain in place for as long as required and can be found in the document linked here: S.M. Wilson’s Ladue Schools COVID-19 Strategy.
One of our requirements when selecting the architectural and construction management firms for these projects was that they have extensive experience in working on and in educational settings. This was not only because they would have experience designing and building for the intended functionality of the spaces, but because they would also be accustomed to developing plans for construction that allow the educational process to continue safely and effectively. In addition, and as we learned when renovating our high school, existing space can be used creatively to keep from having the expense or inconvenience of temporary classrooms (trailers) and our design and construction teams will assist us in developing those logistical plans, as well.
S.M. Wilson, our construction management firm, has developed an overall Phasing Schedule and the following individual school Phasing Plans to illustrate how the Old Bonhomme, Spoede and middle school projects would be approached, including which portions can be done while school is in session and which parts will need to be completed during summer break and other times when students are not on the campus.