The Norman Transcript

February 10, 2014

Bond vote will decide schools’ future

By Katherine Parker
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — Editor’s note: This is the last in a series of articles on the Norman Public School district’s proposed bond issue to be voted on tomorrow, Feb. 11.

Parents, teachers, administrators and community members will decide the future of Norman Public Schools with the 2014 bond issue election on Tuesday.

Norman Public Schools has proposed a bond with several focus areas to address district growth, increased academic rigor, safety and more. NPS Board of Education member Julie Raadschelders said the 2014 bond proposal was the result of an extremely well-researched and thoughtful process.

“It includes projects that touch all aspects of K-12 education, including academics, technology, the arts and safety and security,” Raadschelders said.

Norman Public Schools have dedicated 3 percent of bond funds to transportation; 9 percent of bond funds to annual expenditures which include annual textbook, library, fine arts and furniture acquisitions and maintenance equipment; 10 percent of bond funds to athletics; 13 percent of bond funds to safety and security; 18 percent of bond funds to technology; and 47 percent of bond funds to school facility additions and renovations.

This bond issue is the largest ever proposed in the school district’s history. For the bond issue to pass, it must carry a vote of 60 percent.

The $126 million, five-year bond issue will be voted on in two proposals. Voters will be asked to approve one proposal representing $122.5 million for renovations, safety and security, technology, athletics and annual expenditure projects, as well as a separate $3.5 million

proposal for transportation. State law requires transportation be a separate proposal in school bond elections.

The bond issue is not expected to raise or lower property taxes because other bonds will have been paid off by the time the new bonds would hit the tax rolls.

“This is an opportunity for the community as whole to make their voice heard as to the values they have and what’s important to them,” Dr. Joe Siano, NPS superintendent, said. “I would encourage everyone to take the opportunity to vote.”

With about 1,000 NPS students participating in athletics, the district has dedicated a portion of bond funds to athletic improvements. Harve Collins Field, which is the district’s high school football field, is set for several improvements if the 2014 bond issue passes. Facilities and press box improvements, construction of a new ticket booth, installation of new track fencing, construction of certain concessions, restrooms and storage, installation of a new scoreboard and sound system, construction of new entrances and installation of a new vehicle gate would all update the football field.

Additionally, NPS middle school athletics would also see several improvements including middle school wrestling facilities, softball storage facilities with restrooms and concessions. Such improvements to athletic facilities will support extra-curricular activities that engage students and make athletes feel proud to play for the district, Frank Thompson, NPS athletic director, said.

Safety is another bond issue priority that would make additions and renovate schools to create secure learning environments. Placing barriers like secure entryways between intruders and classrooms gives teachers and students more time to react and protect themselves, Siano said.

If the bond issue passes, Norman High School, Alcott Middle School, Longfellow Middle School, Cleveland Elementary School, Eisenhower Elementary School, Jackson Elementary School, Kennedy Elementary School, Monroe Elementary School and Wilson Elementary School would all receive secure vestibule entries. Kennedy Elementary and Eisenhower Elementary would both have classrooms enclosed. And various renovations would incorporate safe rooms.

The 2014 bond issue would continue to integrate technology into the classroom and place technology into the hands of every student. NPS officials said they hope technology additions and upgrades will increase collaboration between classrooms and schools, enhance student research skills, teach students to distinguish between good and bad online sources and make students appropriate online users.

Out of the 47 percent of bond funding dedicated to facility additions and renovations, about $22 million has been dedicated to each high school, particularly for the addition of a Freshman Academy and University Center on both campuses.

If passed by voters, the 2014 bond issue would make the following additions/renovations at both Norman High School and Norman North High School: interior renovations of certain existing facilities to include, but not be limited to, classroom, restroom and library renovations as well as redesigning a portion of the facilities into a Freshman Academy; and building University Centers to include, but not be limited to, site work, offices, classrooms and safe rooms. Norman Public Schools would be the first school system in central Oklahoma to have University Centers.

Norman Public Schools’ administrators and high school principals said that freshman are very different from seniors and each need different support, freedom and opportunities. The bond issue would not only add classrooms but also change how the high school program functions by focusing on the transitional periods during ninth and 12th grades.

“The strength of Norman schools is the support we receive from parents and the community,” Siano said. “With initiatives like this every student has the chance to be their best and succeed.”

The bond issue represents the sum of the district’s bonding capacity for five years. NPS utilized a revenue bond structure, allowing immediate access to funds it would have had access to over five years and use them to make needed capital investments district-wide in a shorter period of time.

The law requires all bond issue projects to be completed within three years of the start date.

In 2009, NPS passed a similar bond issue for $109 million. The 2009 bond issue focused on renovations of elementary and middle schools, and Ronald Reagan Elementary was built. All of the 2009 bond issue projects were completed on time.

The projects included in the 2014 bond issue were identified in an objective process that drew from an independent Norman Demographic Study in 2012 and independent Facility Plan studies conducted in 2007 and 2013.

Polls will open at 7 a.m. on Tuesday and close at 7 p.m. Sample ballots are available at the Cleveland County Election Board website.

The Cleveland County Election Board is at 641 E. Robinson St., Suite 200. For more information, call 366-0210 or visit clevelandcountyelectionboard.com.

Katherine Parker

366-3541

kparker@normantranscript.com

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