The Norman Transcript

December 21, 2007

Moore school board votes to call $69.9 million school bond issue

Transcript Staff Writer

MOORE -- For the second time in two years, Moore's school board has voted to call a public bond election to fund school construction projects.

The election, set for March 4, 2008, will earmark $69.9 million in school bonds to build two new elementary schools, a performing arts center at Moore High School and a gymnasium at Westmoore High School.

The schools would be the 22nd and 23rd for the 159-square-mile district and should be open in 2010 or 2011, officials said.

Monday's bond issue comes on the heels of an earlier proposal, approved by voters in February of this year.

That proposal, a $21.8 million bond issue, funded classroom construction, remodeling and renovation at several district schools and purchased new equipment. February's bond issue passed with a 73 percent "yes" vote.

Both proposals were needed, Moore superintendent Deborah Arato said, because of the district's rapid growth.

"Our school district and community continue to grow at a rapid rate," she said. "New commercial growth and continued availability of housing have made Moore Public Schools the third largest district in the state."

Arato said the district added more than 2,000 students in last four years, pushing its student population to 20,815.

"In 2006, we were designated the fastest growing 6A district in the state," she said. "We continue to grow by about an elementary school a year."

Current statistics, she said, show the district's student body increasing between 400 to 600 students each year. "The past five years, student growth has been very steady."

To accommodate that growth, Arato said the district needs to build two new elementary schools.

"In the fall of 2008, we'll open 15 new classrooms and our new Southmoore High School, which will help, but it's just a Band-Aid and won't solve the problem," she said. "That's why we want to build two new elementary schools."

One school would be on the southwest side of Moore, near the Eagle Heights Church and Portland Avenue. The second school would be constructed on Moore's southeast side, near 119th and Bryant.

"There are between 800 and 900 lots set to open on the southeast side of town in the next few years," Arato said. "Obviously we're not going to be able to accommodate those additional students without creating more classroom space. And the same problem exists on southwest side."

There, she said, the student population of the Wayland Bonds Elementary School has grown by 200 students, and "4,500 homes are platted and projected and many are already under construction."

In addition to elementary schools, the new bond issue would fund construction of a performing arts center at Moore High School and a new gymnasium at Westmoore High School.

"Westmoore's current gym is abysmally small," Arato said. "And there is not a meeting place in the school for the student body. It's been a problem for a long time, and this is just our first opportunity to address the issue."

Should the bond issue pass, Arato said the district would be able to fund the improvements without raising taxes. "We're projecting no tax increase, because some of our previous bond issues have rolled off the rolls."

M. Scott Carter 366-3545