Denise Fredrick, the departing president of the Springfield Public Schools Board of Education, celebrates early Proposition S vote returns with fellow board member Scott Crise. The ballot measure would allow the district to issue $220 million in bonds to completely rebuild two middle schools, substantially renovate Pershing K-8 and add safety measures across the district. (Photo by Shannon Cay)

Voters across the Springfield R-XII district showed strong support for a $220 million bond ballot measure that will fund complete rebuilds of two century-old middle schools, major renovations at Pershing K-8 and safety upgrades at all 52 SPS buildings. Proposition S passed by nearly 16,000 votes.

Support for the ballot measure was evident from the get-go, with over 77 percent of voters in favor of Proposition S when the first 12 precincts reported Tuesday evening. The first round of results led Springfield Public Schools Superintendent Grenita Lathan to throw her hands in the air in response.

“It was so exciting,” she said. That the support held through the rest of the evening was a testament to how Springfield residents value their public school system, she said.

“It tells me that we have a community that supports the public schools, especially Springfield Public Schools,” Lathan said. “That they value safety and security. They value students and staff members working and attending schools in outstanding facilities.”

Proposition S received 77.7 percent of the vote, according to the final, uncertified, Greene County Elections results. The ballot measure needed about 57 percent of voters to approve it in order for the district to issue up to $220 million in bonds to tackle a set of prioritized building projects and improvements.

Proposition S: Shall Springfield Public Schools issue general obligation bonds in the amount of $220 million to fund school improvements? (Full ballot language available here.)

With 57 of 57 precincts reportingVotesPct.
Yes22,434 77.67%

“I think the results of the bond (vote), the significant results, mean we are invested in ensuring that our public schools succeed and we will do whatever it takes to ensure its success,” said Alina Lehnert, a former SPS board president and co-chair of the Friends of SPS committee that supported the bond project. “That’s what it communicates to me, is that our community values public education.”

The decision will not result in a tax increase, and it won’t be reflected on property owners’ bills for years. The measure on Tuesday’s ballot asked voters to extend the school district’s current levy, which was upped to 73 cents per $100 of assessed property value in the district thanks to the 2019 Prop S vote. In a presentation last year, the district’s bond advisors said the debts tied to the 2019 measure are projected to be paid in full in 2040, and that the 2023 decision would extend the levy another four to five years. 

The bond will fund the following projects, which are ranked by priority as established by a community task force that spent months examining the district’s greatest facility needs: 

  • A new Pipkin Middle School, ideally on a new, more spacious site ($53 million)
  • Safety upgrades, including new storm shelter-gymnasiums at six elementary schools and other security measures installed across the district ($37.3 million)
  • A renovated Pershing K-8 ($50.5 million) 
  • A new Reed Academy ($59.5 million)
Grenita Lathan, superintendent of Springfield Public Schools, is shown seated at the table and raising her hands in celebration after early vote returns show strong support for Proposition S, the $220 million bond measure. (Photo by Shannon Cay)

The group recommended a fifth project, a new Robberson Community School ($31.7 million). But the $220 bond falls about $12 million short of projected costs for the five projects. Enough projects tied to the 2019 bond ballot measure came in under budget to allow SPS to tackle several major projects that weren’t part of the initial to-do list. For now, district officials have decided to push pause on addressing Robberson or any other high-priority elementary school projects until demographics and boundaries studies are completed. The studies will help determine what enrollment capacity Robberson and other elementary schools should be. It will also help determine if Pershing should make the switch from K-8 to a middle school. 

Pipkin’s campus will be built about 4 miles east of the current building on a 20.9-acre property located at 3207 E. Pythian, near Highway 65. The district has a contract in place to purchase the land that was dependent on the Prop S decision.

Reed Academy will be rebuilt on the same north Springfield campus address, 2000 N. Lyon Ave. 

The safety upgrades include roughly $7 million dedicated to the installation of protective film on all ground-floor windows on school buildings across the district. There will also be security cameras and door and roof sensors and alarms installed in buildings as needed. 

Six elementary schools — Cowden, Holland, Mann, Pittman, Watkins and Wilder — will get new storm shelter-gymnasium facilities added at their current campuses. 

The district had plans in place that were ready for this day. Survey and schematic design fees have already been approved for the Reed and Pipkin projects. Safety enhancements are expected to be installed starting this summer. And Lathan said construction is expected to begin in May on two of the six storm shelter-gymnasiums tied to the project, at Mann and Wilder elementary schools.

“We will be rocking and rolling,” Lathan said over the phone Tuesday night, with the sounds of a jubilant crowd in close proximity.

Cory Matteson

Cory Matteson moved to Springfield in 2022 to join the team of Daily Citizen journalists and staff eager to launch a local news nonprofit. He returned to the Show-Me State nearly two decades after graduating from the University of Missouri-Columbia. Prior to arriving in Springfield, he worked as a reporter at the Lincoln Journal Star and Casper Star-Tribune. More by Cory Matteson