Come the fall of 2014, some St. Joseph School District (SJSD) children will be walking through unchartered hallways, sitting at brand-new desks, and will be the first classes of students of two new elementary schools. In 2012, St. Joseph voters passed a $42 million bond issue to construct two 75,000-square-foot elementary schools and provide updates and air-conditioning to the other schools in the district.
The old brick school buildings in St. Joseph may have held nostalgia, but new buildings will provide more safety, comfort and a better environment for learning. One two-story building will be located at Carden Park at 16th and Duncan streets and the other will be a one-story school at Bishop and Cook roads. Former school district superintendent, Melody Smith, and Mayor Bill Faulkner applauded St. Joseph in their support of the new schools when the bond passed by 65 percent in April 2012.
The school at Bishop and Cook roads will provide for the new subdivisions that are rapidly spreading over the land on the northeastern side of town. The construction site for the school blends in to the other construction of the homes all around the area. The Carden Park school will be tucked into the neighborhood that used to attend Neely Elementary School. The neighbors will be very happy to have their school closer to home once again.
While the updated and new schools help the current residents, it is also hoped that it will attract more people to consider St. Joseph their home. Prospective employers will be looking for places where education is a high priority. A community supportive of local education means better education for the families of new residents and a better skilled workforce for the companies that choose to settle here.
The construction has already been boosting the local economy. The district’s chief operation officer, Rick Hartigan, announced at the beginning of the project that nearly 90 percent of the few hundred employees hired were local residents. This has been providing these local developers income for the last few years. Neighborhoods have been anxiously anticipating the opening of the schools next fall as they watch the local developers sculpt the land and buildings that they know will provide their children newer technology, better safety and better comfort so they can focus on their learning.
St. Joseph supports their schools and will benefit from the boost these new schools will have on the local economy. Local citizens banded together a few years ago in a group called PACT (Planning A Course Together). Guided by the St. Joseph Board of Education and SJSD administrators, this group fired the ideas and spurred the action that helped finalize the plans to build the new schools and improve the already existing schools. When decisions have to be made, St. Joseph citizens back their schools and support projects that will improve community education.