The process of collecting signatures on a petition in favor of building a new Ames, Iowa, High School, and expanding three district elementary schools, appears to be in good shape, according to Duane Reeves, who is spearheading the collection process.
Since the Ames School Board approved language for issuing $110 million in general obligation bonds to finance the two projects on Jan. 8, the next step in the process of potentially building a new high school — gathering 935 signatures necessary to move the issue to a vote this spring — has been underway.
After getting started last week, volunteers and members of school groups have been collecting signatures outside of Ames schools and at local events, and Reeves estimates between 50 and 75% of the needed signatures have already been obtained, despite bad weather slowing down the process.
So far, about 250 signatures have been collected from Ames High School alone, a number expected to jump to more than 350 when all is said and done; the other schools' assorted Parent Teacher Organizations (PTOs), Parent Teacher Associations (PTAs) and booster clubs have been tasked with bringing in 150 signatures a piece. According to Director of School, Community and Media Relations Eric Smidt, the number of signatures needed, in this case 935, is chosen to equal 25% of the ballots submitted in the most recent school election, which for Ames was last September's school board election.
"We took it on the chin from the weather, because two days of the big 'get-out' were last Thursday and Friday, after we got the bond language," said Reeves, who is the chairman of the committee tasked with gauging community interest over the prospect of building a new high school. "And then having the long holiday weekend, we didn't get much better weather then. But with what we've got at the high school, I'm encouraged. That was a lot more than I thought we would get. And listening to a couple of PTOs, they're pretty well on their way to being done. I think we're in good shape."
Anyone who lives within the Ames school district and is at least 18 years old is able to sign the circulating petitions in support of the project. Individuals with students who open enroll into Ames schools, but do not live within the district, are not be eligible for participation.
In order to have the newly finalized bond referendum language on an election ballot this spring, the school district has until Feb. 15 to gather the needed signatures and submit them to the county auditor. Reeves said that the current plan is to let the school board know if the needed signatures have been collected by Jan. 30, and present the signatures during the regular board meeting on Feb 5.
If the necessary number of signatures are collected, a vote on the bond referendum will be planned for April 3. Unlike other types of votes, 60% approval is required to pass a bond issue, not just a simple majority.
Reeves said that based on the numbers he is aware of now, he believes the needed number of signatures will be collected in time for the deadlines in place.
"I know we're well over half, and that's without talking to some of the other schools," Reeves said. "If we're halfway there now, and we're getting better weather now, then we're in pretty good shape."