By Katherine Parker
The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — Editor’s note: This is the latest in a series of articles on the Norman Public School district’s proposed bond issue to be voted on Feb. 11.
Norman Public Schools is keeping students engaged in academics by supporting students’ extra-curricular activities and in the 2014 bond issue, 10 percent of bond funding has been dedicated to athletics, school officials said.
Frank Thompson, NPS athletic director, said that in the district about 800 to 1,000 students participate in athletics.
The $126 million, five-year bond issue will be voted on Feb. 11 in two proposals. 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.
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 $126 million 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.
At a recent League of Women Voters meeting, NPS Superintendent Dr. Joe Siano said the district had to invest in things that keep kids engaged and that from the basketball court to the football field, sports are important extra-curricular activities to NPS students.
“Our coaches deserve the same quality of facilities as our other teachers,” Siano said. “Students learn from our coaches and the athletic building is their classroom.”
Maintenance of athletic buildings is an ongoing process just like that of other buildings and the expense is high, Thompson said.
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.
Wade Standley, Norman North football coach, said he thought it would be an exciting time for NPS schools if all goes well and the bond issue is supported by Norman voters.
“We want to strive for excellence in everything: academics and extra-curriculars,” Standley said. “There’s no question that athletics is an extension of what kids are doing in school,” he said. “Being on a team is a positive experience.”
Greg Nation, Norman High football coach, said Norman schools need to keep up with other schools.
“As far as athletic facilities go, we’re behind schools like Edmond and Yukon,” he emphasized. “Our athletes want to be proud when they walk on the field.”
Thompson said that by supporting athletics, NPS could enhance skills students can use beyond his or her primary years.
“Students learn how to compete and work with others,” Thompson said. “Students become better at academics too because they have to pass to play, and they realize they can succeed in school. And a lot of our students continue with advanced education because they have participated in sports.”
Nation said that through sports, he sees students set goals and meet them and learn how to use determination and confidence to succeed in whatever path they choose to follow.
“We’re not teaching them about football, we’re teaching them about life,” he said.
NPS middle school athletics would also see several improvements if the 2014 bond issue succeeds. Two middle school wrestling facilities that would include a workout room to also serve as a safe room, locker rooms and restrooms are set to be built. One of the facilities would serve both Longfellow and Whittier students and the other facility would serve both Irving and Alcott students.
“The addition of the wrestling facilities is a big deal because they can be used as safe rooms by the whole school,” Keith Lough, Whittier athletic director and 8th grade football coach, said.
During the wrestling off-season, other sports can utilize the building as well when there is bad weather outside, Lough explained.
Additionally, all four middle schools would get new softball storage facilities with restrooms and concessions.
“The additions to the softball field such as the concession stand will make it more of an event, more exciting for parents and students,” Lough said. “It also emphasizes to the softball girls that they’re being considered; that they’re important.”
Other capital improvements to high school athletics would include: at Norman High, soccer and softball facility parking lot improvements and various athletic facility improvements and at Norman North, construction of additional tennis courts and new ticket booth for outdoor sports as well as constructing additional space to athletic buildings.
“We’re very fortunate in Norman to have an administration who understands our needs for facility improvements,” Thompson said. “Academics comes first, but our athletes deserve some upgrades.”
The bond issue represents the sum of the district’s bonding capacity for five years. The NPS school district has utilized a revenue bond structure so it will be able to have 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.
Early in-person voting will be from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Feb. 6 and Feb. 7 at the Cleveland County Election Board. Polls will open at 7 a.m. Feb. 11 and close at 7 p.m.
Registration to vote closed Friday, Jan. 17, 24 days before the election, as required by law. Sample ballots are available at the Cleveland County Election Board website.
The Cleveland County Election Board is located at 641 E. Robinson St., Suite 200. For more information, call 366-0210 or visit clevelandcountyelectionboard.com.
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