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'We owe it to our children': Hillsboro school leaders outline their case for $25M bond proposition

On the Aug. 2 ballot, Proposition KIDS would make a number of safety and security changes in the Jefferson Co. district.

HILLSBORO, Mo. — Open the front doors of Hillsboro High School and you'll see something that worries Superintendent Jon Isaacson: distance.

It's the district's only school without a secure entrance, something of a concern after years of school shootings around the country.

"I'm not naïve enough to think that could never happen at Hillsboro," Isaacson said. "So we owe it to our children and we owe it to the parents and our community that we have the most secure school that we can provide to do what we can to ensure that our students feel safe."

It's one of the projects that Isaacson would fund with the $25M Proposition KIDS bond proposition on the Aug. 2 ballot.

Isaacson stressed that the current tax rate would not increase. Rather, he likens it to refinancing a home mortgage.

Proposition KIDS would refinance the district's existing debt and extend repayment for an additional eight years for the various projects.

Though he acknowledges that this might be a hard sell in the current economy.

"I feel like the support is there. Am I cognizant and worried about the current economics? Yeah. It impacts people, and I understand that financially," he said.

Another project — upgrading the district's bus fleet with 360-degree cameras — was set in motion after another tragedy: the death of a 6-year-old Jefferson County student caused by a bus accident.

"There was a tragedy, and it happened on my birthday," businessman Bobby Griffy said. "We were out having dinner, and my business partner said 'hey we have to be able to do something about this.'"

Griffy's worked with the district to install 360-degree cameras on a number of Hillsboro's buses and said Prop KIDS provides funds for the rest of the fleet.

"We got one on there, and we thought 'hey, this is a no-brainer. Why is it not on every bus?' It just felt great. It was a very positive thing for us." he said.

"The moment we take students away from the doorstep, they are ours to protect until we return them to their parents," Isaacson said. "Anything that we can do to ensure that, we are going to do."

One more project on the list came from an unlikely source: a Girl Scout troop that asked for increased security along Leon Hall Parkway.

"It is very important for the safety of kids with the enormous amount of traffic that we have in school," Mayor Buddy Russell said of the request, which was one of the first he received after taking over the mayor's office in 2019.

Russell said he worked with the school district to determine they could add a right-turn lane and crosswalk for the intersection that serves several schools.

Issacson adds that a lot of the district's parents started driving their kids to school early on in the pandemic, a trend that has not reversed over time.

"We're proud of our Girl Scouts for doing that," Isaacson said with a pile of the scout's letters on his desk.

He said he's hopeful they'll get the funds they need, though he still worries about the economy's impact.

"We are coming out of a global pandemic. Gas is five dollars a gallon. All those different things where money is tight... And we also understand that we are the largest number on the personal property tax," Isaacson said.

If the proposition fails on Aug. 2, Isaacson said the district would have to dip into the operating fund, and — potentially — any future tax measure would then be a tax increase issue.

Contact reporter Sara Machi on Facebook and Twitter.

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