Hastings Asks Voters to Invest in Schools - KHGI-TV/KWNB-TV/KHGI-CD-Grand Island, Kearney, Hastings

Hastings Asks Voters to Invest in Schools

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Preserving neighborhood schools, while keeping costs in check, Hastings hopes to strike a balance with a proposal going to voters this spring.

Being an elementary principal comes with perks.

"I get lots of hugs," Cathy Cafferty said.  

Dealing with the boys bathroom isn't one of them. Ninety-year-old schools like Longfellow need upgrades like plumbing and wiring.

Longfellow alum Corey Stutte said, "Air conditioning was always a concern, basically, the overall inside."  

Hastings community leaders like Stutte are showing their support for a $21.5 million bond issue, without a tax increase.  

Superintendent Craig Kautz said they're phasing out an early retirement program. The tax dollars that went to that would go towards elementary school repairs.  

Bond committee member Marcie Kemnitz said, "We know it's not going to get any cheaper going down the road. We know those repairs will have to be made, we'd rather do them and support Hastings Public Schools and being able to do them now in a much more focused plan."

There are six elementary schools in Hastings, which may be one too many.

Dr. Kautz said, "That's not the most cost effective way of delivering elementary education so as committee of citizens struggled between cost effectiveness and neighborhood school, they decided to reduce by one school."

The mission of Morton Elementary would change, possibly into a preschool in years to come. That was the consensus after two different committees weighed in, along with input from scientific polling.  

Kemnitz said, "We wanted the schools local, heard that information and tried to do our best to keep those schools, that's why you see the five schools."

Polling found most residents agree good schools are instrumental to economic development. They hope this plan modernizes classrooms, without sacrificing the neighborhood appeal families like.  

Dr. Corey Stutte, CEO of Strategic Pioneer said, "I think the community really values neighborhood schools. It's much easier to send your child a block down than take them across town. So having these five schools there's not going to be a lot of change, even without Morton there will still be neighborhood schools to get kids there safely, quickly."

Over the next three weeks, the school district plans on hosting public meetings at each elementary school to discuss improvements and to see proposed renovations.

If approved, work would begin on the schools this year and is expected to be completed by August 2020 according to information HastingsVision.org, a website dedicated to information about the proposal.

Hastings Public Schools also has a list of Frequently Asked Questions.

The bond issue will appear on the primary election ballot; voting will take place May 13.

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