Rachael Van Horn
Woodward, Okla. —
Woodward School Board members drilled down to the tiniest of details Tuesday evening in a special 2-hour board meeting determine which projects the district would pursue in a coming bond issue vote slated for October.
Topping the list for what is estimated could be a 10-year, $29 million bond issue, were security and safety for the entire district. Also on the list of improvements is the updating of buildings to meet code requirements, transportation and in-classroom technology updates.
If the bond issue passes in October, it will represent no increase in ad valorem taxes, according to Andrew Brian Davis of Stephen L. Smith, Co.. Davis is the financial advisor for Woodward School District. It would extend an existing millage that was a result of an earlier bond issue, he said.
Including professional fees, interest and fees associated with the administration of the sale of the bonds, board members would have about $17 million to work with on actual construction and projects, Davis said.
“I think it is really important to be able to go to the public and say that we are not going to raise your taxes, we are just asking you to extend it,” said Woodward School Board Member Roxy Merklin.
The goal of the board members Tuesday was to pour over line items in the bond proposal in order to include construction and needed renovation to some school buildings in a single bond issue that would meet all the needs within one construction project without having to piecemeal the project through multiple years, Merchant said.
Board members decided on an overall project that will include five new classrooms, two of which are safe rooms and a new restroom, for each of the three elementary schools and a multilevel security system for every school in the district. The plan also includes a renovation of the middle school auditorium as well as the renovation of the high school gymnasium, making it serve several purposes including as a safe room that would be large enough for all the staff and students. The high school’s gym would also have its entrance renovated.
The plan not only provides for the safety and security of students in the district, but also a growing district, Merchant said. In the last two years, the district has grown by more than 300 students, according to Merchant.
Present in the meeting were Joe Hall of Joe D. Hall Construction, who will serve as the construction manager of the bond project and Clarence Williams of Boynton Williams and Associates Architecture and Planning Interiors.
Williams and Hall assisted board members when they struggled with how best to secure the Woodward Middle School campus, while still allowing students to leave the building to access areas separate from the main building.
Several options, including security cameras and a double entry buzzer system were discussed as well as a fence that will encircle the entire campus.
Also a topic of concern was the cost associated with the plan to renovate the middle school auditorium in such a way that it could serve as the safe room as well as adding an elevator to the facility, making it ADA accessible, Merchant said.
Merklin said she would rather wait to begin work on the auditorium renovation until they were sure all of the safety and security issues throughout the district would have enough funding.
Another concern regarding proposed changes to Woodward Middle School was its entry location just off of busy 9th Street, said Board Member Glenn Billings.
Billings stressed that he was not only talking about the congestion that is caused by vehicles turning into the middle school from 9th Street, but also the security aspects of the arrangement of the campus.
Board members agreed at the end of the meeting to have Davis plug in the $29 million figure to make sure it would not raise taxes for Woodward voters and agreed to come back Aug. 6 at noon to review any changes made to the plan.