Rachael Van Horn
Woodward, Okla. —
In just a little less than a month, Woodward School District patrons will go to the polls and make a decision that will have a profound and long-lasting impact here no matter how they vote.
On October 8, voters will approve or disapprove two separate Woodward School bond issue referendums equalling $29 million.
The measure represent no new taxes, instead extending a millage already in effect from the 2008 bond.
For the sake of clarity, Woodward School District staff created a brochure that divided the priorities the bonds is meant to address into the top five needs, as identified by the Long range Planning Committee, according to Woodward Superintendent Tim Merchant.
Those needs include, safety, security, transportation, overcrowding and technology.
The proposed bond issue is the largest and most complex in this district's history, Merchant said.
Among other priorities, the measure would provide safe rooms for every school in the district as well as bolster security and provide upgraded facilities, transportation and technology to the district,Merchant said.
"Bottom line, all the priority pieces of this bond issue are about our children," Merchant said.
Recent weather events this spring in Moore, as well as Woodward's own 2012 tornado, galvanized Woodward Board of Education support this year for the construction of safe rooms in all schools, Said Superintendent Merchant
"This was also because of the real threat to the safety of our children became with our own tornado in 2012," Merchant said "And it is also about the discussion with the long range planning committee and their advice to the board."
A central question, when talk of the need for safe rooms began with the Long Range Planning Committee, was who's responsibility is it to provide safe rooms for the children, Merchant said.
"Out of those discussions, it is everybody's responsibility. But the bottom line, because of lack of federal and state funds for this, the responsibility lies within each community," Merchant said.
Merchant added the dual use of the added safe room space as another benefit to the addition of two more safe/classrooms at each elementary school.
"They are fully function classrooms, but add to that, if there were an intruder, there is no safer place to shelter than in one of these safe rooms," Merchant said.
If you want an example of just how important safe rooms are, ask Deputy Superintendent Kyle Reynolds.
"April 15th during that tornado, I was in the locker room in the high school gym, while my daughter was in the safe room at our house," Reynolds said. I thought we were both safe. But now the engineers and the Texas Tech studies show, you're not safe in the locker rooms at the gyms like we thought we were."
1. A multi-purpose safe room in the High School-large enough to shelter the entire school population
2. A multi-purpose safe room in the Middle School-large enough to shelter the entire school population
3. Two additional safe/classrooms at all three elementary schools (early Childhood Center already has six safe/classrooms
4. The safe rooms are built to FEMA rating standards and will be able to withstand up to an F-5 tornado.
5. Additional space addresses not only safety but overcrowding.