FHSD schools deal with repair costs that can be solved with bonds


Photo illustration by Gracie Bowman

By Shivania Bondada

For several years, FHSD schools have been dealing with building concerns. Those concerns consist of leaks, cracks and heating issues. The concerns arose from the buildings aging. As the buildings aged, repairs were done to fix the concerns. Repairs continuously take away from the district budget. To cope with repairs and funding issues, FHSD decided to solve these problems with bonds.

A bond is a way to collect taxes that can be used for large capital projects without raising taxes. It’s a common way for many school districts, ambulance districts, water districts and others to raise funds. With an increase of funds, all 23 schools within FHSD can be fixed. FHN can even be rebuilt.

“So it [a bond] says it’s an investment for people,” FHN principal Nathan Hostetler said. “So, what the bond issue does, it gives the school district permission to sell those bonds to pay.”

In the 1980s, the population exploded in the St. Charles area and a few of the schools built around that time were FHN, Hollenbeck Middle School and Becky David Elementary School. Those buildings aged, and the sum of all repairs within a school will cost more over time than it will cost upfront to build a new building.

“It’s called at needs basis,’’ Treasurer for the Board of Education, Patrick Lane, said. “In 2008, the last bond issue passed and Francis Howell High School was our greatest need. North was doing its job. It was an adequate facility. Some improvements were made but not near the money was spent at North as building the new high school for Francis Howell.”

There were three options for FHN: a basic fix that would range from $40 to $45 million, a significant upgrade that would range from $60 to $65 million and the last option of rebuilding the school for about $82 million. The last option for FHN was chosen  because of the water, leakage, HVACs and roof problems within the school.

We felt like spending $40 million up to $60 million to update the facility itself is that we were making a bad investment,” Lane said. “We spent a lot of time discussing that. And whereas with $80 million everything will be new.”

If the bond issue passes, FHN will be rebuilt. The new facility will likely be built on the practice fields between Henderson and the old FHN. It will include more space for students, changes to the departments and centralized administration. It will be bigger and newer. It will take about four years for the completion of a new FHN.

“I’d really like to be able to be a part of the design of a [new] building that had more open spaces, higher ceilings, more room for students to be in a place that felt more open, a place where classrooms had had easier spaces that sort of that enabled them to collaborate more easily,” Hostetler said.

Students may not realize it, but building a new FHN is important. An increase of space will allow student athletes to have a gym space with multiple practices and a larger auditorium. Teachers will be able to collaborate more easily. The bonds will allow for not only FHN to be rebuilt but many other schools in FHSD will undergo repairs over a period of time.

“The kids at FHN will benefit more than probably students throughout the rest of the district,” Hostetler said. “The new building would have roughly 50,000 more square feet in this building. The facilities would be better, the organization of the building would be better, there would be fewer issues of HVAC, fewer issues with roof leaks or with drainage. There would just generally be a better place to learn.”