LOUP CITY — Despite claims by a few residents that Loup City Public Schools plans to do an approximately $3 million addition to its middle school/high school building without voter approval, the district’s superintendent says there is no plan to do so at this time.
Loup City resident Tina Treffer, as well as others who have written letters to the editor to both The Independent and the Kearney Hub, claim the district intends to approve a $3.7 million elementary addition to its existing 3-12 building in the form of a lease purchase. This would not require voter approval to do.
Loup City Public Schools currently has a K-2 elementary building and a 3-12 building across the street from it.
“They (school board) can vote on it in a special meeting and it doesn’t matter if we are saying we do not support this; they have the authority as elective officials,” Treffer said. “Under this lease purchase option, they can go through that as long as they do not go over the limit in the levy. They can deem it as a critical situation that needs to be addressed and run with it. We do not have any say in it whatsoever.”
LCPS Superintendent Angela Simpson said the district has not made any decisions on a potential elementary building addition. All that has been done, she said, is a facilities study that looks at possible options for addressing some of the issues with the district’s buildings.
“We had not had a facilities study in several years,” Simpson said. “There are some issues, so we did a facilities study in order to see what possibilities we have. That is what we have always done, and is all we plan to do at this point.”
Simpson said the district has no intention at this time of pursuing an approximately $3 million addition without the vote of the community in the form of a lease purchase, as Treffer has claimed.
“We presented to the community some options for how you finance additions or remodeling,” she said. “That is all that has been discussed. There have been no votes taken or plans or anything put forward.”
According to the Sept. 30 LCPS work session agenda, a lease purchase was listed as a possible option for addressing the district’s facilities concerns should the LCPS Board of Education choose to do so. The projected cost listed in the agenda is $3.6 million, which would include design, engineering and construction.
The agenda also states the lease purchase could have a maturity length of seven years by statute and could utilize the district’s special building fund for debt service. A lease purchase could be issued by a majority vote of the school board.
Simpson said a lease purchase is typically shorter-term and a smaller project. Under a lease purchase, she said it is possible the district could use local bankers.
The Sept. 30 meeting agenda states that a bond issue was also presented as a potential option to address the district’s facilities issues.
“We have not really talked about either option at this point, so it was just information,” Simpson said. “A lease purchase is within the tax levy and a bond is outside the tax levy.”
As LCPS undergoes the process of evaluating its facilities, Treffer said the district has given tours of the K-2 building to community members to see the building’s deficiencies. She claims her request to tour the building was denied.
“The names of whoever the school board members invite have to be approved by her (Simpson). Then those people are taken on a tour,” Treffer said. “They have two more tours that they are going to be doing before the first of the year to try to get more people to see the deficiencies that they are pointing out.”
Simpson said LCPS will give a tour to anyone who wants to tour the K-2 building. She said it is not that individuals cannot tour the buildings, but that the district wants to know ahead of time so they can accommodate them.
“We told people at the (school board) meetings that they are more than welcome to tell us who needs to be invited or they can contact a board member to be invited,” Simpson said. “We had some people show up last Friday (Dec. 6) that were not invited and came with other people. We only have room for about 20 people at a time, otherwise it is extremely distracting to kids.”
Treffer also claims that LCPS wants to “impede on” the established Central Nebraska Community Partnership program that provides preschool to 37 four- and five-year-olds in Loup City.
Simpson said the issue with the CNCP has “nothing to do with the facilities process” and that the district has never come out with a plan for a preschool.
“There was a lot of supposition made,” she said. “We looked at how we could add all-day preschool because they (CNCP) informed us they do not have the room for an all-day preschool. We also looked at what it would look like if you added a preschool to the middle school/high school building or the K-2 building. We looked at lots of options.”
Simpson said everything being claimed by Treffer and other community members is part of a facilities visioning process and that nothing has been finalized.
“There has been no final decision and no plan put out there,” she said. “There are just lots of options available to us.”