Claremore Public Schools administrators, teachers, staff, school board members and members of the community met in the Robson Performing Arts Center on Tuesday, Nov. 20 to discuss possible projects for the upcoming 2019 school bond issue.
Before launching into the individual items that the community prioritized from previous lists, CPS Superintendent Bryan Frazier told the group that the bond would have no tax increase for those living within the school district.
The school bond will work by providing the district with approximately $31 million in spendable dollars under a lease revenue bond.
School bonds can only be used for capital improvement projects due to state constitutional requirements for how school districts spend property tax dollars.
Also for consideration, in addition to the items on the bond, are whether the bond should be issued as a lease revenue bond, which gives the district in total a reduced amount of spendable money upfront, or a series bond, which pays out more total dollars in much smaller increments over a longer period of time.
“We’ve got a lot of needs that need to be met, so the advantage of getting your money upfront is to be able to get after that and meet those needs immediately,” Frazier said, clearly in favor of the lease revenue option. “I think it’s important to the community and our parents. If I’m the parent of an eighth grader I would want you to start addressing those needs immediately and I’d want you to start doing that as quickly as you possibly can before my kids are no longer in school.”
Frazier highlighted 24 projects that had been marked as important by the previous two focus groups and gave rough approximate the dollar amounts necessary to complete those projects.
The projects as listed would exceed the projected spendable dollars, therefore, there is still much work remaining before the final projects go to the bond vote.
Kitchen and cafeterias are being proposed for three sites, Claremont, Roosa and Will Rogers Junior High. There is also a possibility of turning the new cafeteria spaces into safe rooms for the schools.
The second proposed project is an expansion of the Westside Elementary library by removing a resource room that has structural and safety concerns.
A third project, to create a secure vestibule entering Will Rogers Junior High, would secure the main entrance and relocate offices, which could possibly expand the cafeteria and allow for a new kitchen space.
The project proposal is to expand the front of the junior high toward the parking lot, creating a multiple barrier entrance that funnels everyone through the newly secured area before entering the building.
Frazier described the fourth proposed project as “the sexy part of the bond.”
The idea is a 25,000 square foot STEM building, behind Robson PAC facing Florence Avenue.
The $8 million building would house teachers, classrooms and storage along with plenty of lab space.
“As we look at the purpose of the STEM building, it’s not just going to be about technology. Technology is a huge component of that, but we’re really talking about a concept. We’re talking about a space that is highly mobile and highly flexible labs,” Frazier said.
The goal is to create a space where nearly any scientific field can be explored hands on.
“It is a work space, a space where we can cast data and information to multiple devices, where we can work collaboratively,” Frazier said. “It is a concept.”
Frazier also described the project as a critical need for preparing Claremore students for the jobs of the future that don’t yet exist.
LED lighting renovations across the district are the fifth project. Research has shown the LED lighting has a 6 year return on investment in saved electricity costs.
Renovations would begin with the least electricity efficient buildings and continue from there.
“Lighting matters,” Frazier said, indicating scientific evidence that shows how proper lighting has a significant impact on a student’s ability to learn.
The sixth project is a barn for the vocational and agriculture program.
The issue with the project is that it will require the district to acquire land with the proper zoning for such a building and space.
“We have a tremendous VoAg program,” Frazier said. “We’ve got kids that show, and they’ve got animals and keep their animals at home. But what about the kids that want to be involved in Ag but don’t have that?”
The seventh project is a visitor and ninth grade football locker room.
In the last bond project the new locker room was built but could not, due to funds, build a locker room for the visitors.
A demolition and rebuild of the Rubber Gym is the eighth project. The Rubber Gym is currently used every hour of the school day, even as there are holes in the roof. The cost of attempting to save the existing structure would be similar to the cost of demolishing it and building a new Rubber Gym that is larger and sturdier.
With those renovations, the gym could also include locker rooms for the sports that do not currently have their own space, including softball and tennis.
A proposal to improve lighting in the parking lots, a major safety concern for the district, will cost about $250,000.
The tenth project is updating the high school entrance for safety and curb appeal.
Demolishing the pre-fabricated buildings behind the high school will be necessary; especially as the STEM building absorbs space and teachers.
The demolition itself would cost around $75,000 and then building a parking lot in that space to attempt to maintain available parking would be approximately $250,000.
Replacing the football turf, which is past its recommended replacement date by a couple of years, will cost approximately $500,000.
The 14th project is a soccer and track addition. This project could provide locker rooms, storage space, updated stands, restrooms, lighting and a concession stand for the men’s’ and women’s’ soccer and track teams.
Tennis facilities for the growing tennis team, which may include stands, shade and restrooms, are also being considered.
The cost of updating and standardizing surveillance cameras across the school district will be between $250,000 and $500,000.
The district is currently using multiple systems through more than one vendor, and so their will be costs associated with ending and expanding contracts.
“The cameras are pretty inexpensive but the servers are not, and being able to tie the systems together is not,” Frazier said.
Claremont Elementary has a proposed plan for an updated entrance and better security, estimated to cost $250,000.
The district is budgeting $2.5 million for miscellaneous upgrades and general repairs that are past due and necessary, such as roof, floor and HVAC repairs.
Number 20 is filling the immediate needs for technology across the district, estimated at $1 million.
Immediate needs are considered to be the Internet and electricity infrastructure, teacher computers and student devices.
For teacher computers and student devices, what that looks like is expected to look differently at different age groups.
Teachers and students in kindergarten and first grade are expected to have interactive technology that allows students be engaged in their learning.
In second through eighth grades, Frazier anticipated that classroom sets of laptops may be more appropriate.
The goal for the high school is to have 1-1 technology for students, where they are responsible for a laptop, which they can take home, throughout the school year.
“The other group that we have to address as far as technology is special education,” Frazier said. “Technology is a huge component of special education as well.”
Transportation is also considered a priority.
The district is considering six new yellow student transports, two activity buses and two 15 passenger student transport busses for smaller sports and groups for a total of $1.2 million.
Project 22 is to upgrade the Lobbyguard systems with hardware at all six sites in the district. The Lobbyguard system is in place to do background checks on visitors.
Also to sustain future needs is an annual program for transportation, over a 10 year period. Every school year, bond monies could be allocated to purchase a new school bus to replace an old school bus. The purpose would be to maintain the fleet, so that aging school buses don’t all break down at the same time in the future.
Project 24 is similar in that it is an annual program for upgrading technology, band equipment, athletic equipment and vo-ag equipment over a 10 year period across the district.
The next community bond meeting will be Tuesday, Dec. 18 at 6:30 p.m. in the Robson Performing Arts Center.
All community members are welcome to attend. The proposed school bond issue will be on a special ballot to be voted on March 5, 2019.