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Washington Schools Bond Vote

Out of room

Washington Schools: Growth is now, so is need

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The building boom around Washington hasn’t gone unnoticed.

Far from it at Washington Public Schools where enrollment jumped an incredible 13.1  percent between the last day of classes in May and the start of the new school year in August.

Superintendent Chris Reynolds still marvels at the size of the jump.

The district went from 1,007 students to 1,139.

“That’s never happened to us,” he said. “I don’t think anyone would ever anticipate 132 more kids in one summer.”

From one school year to the next, the district was out of classroom space even as new home construction was booming.

Presently, one elementary school class meets in the back of the elementary gymnasium facility and a high school history teacher has been moved approximately 300 yards from the high school to the indoor facility.

That is the reality of growth in the district that has been topped with the anticipation of more growth down the road.

“Growth is now and it is what’s coming in three to five years,” the superintendent said.

Reynolds pointed to three large housing additions now in the works across the district.

One will have 84 homes when complete. Another’s plats call for more than 120 new homes. And outside Goldsby, but still in the district, is a planned development which will include 600 homes.

It’s logical to think a fair number of those new residents will be families with school-age children.

Reynolds and his board began discussing the situation – and possible solutions – in the spring.

It was the main topic of discussion at a board retreat in July.

After hearing proposals from several firms, the board opted for a $24.5 million bond issue to fund 61,719 square feet of new construction on the campus.

It is anticipated all three phases would be complete in the fall of 2024.

The millage increase is estimated at 14 mills, Reynolds said, which will put the district’s debt load at about 34.5 mills.

The issue calls for the bonds to be repaid over 17 years. However, Reynolds said the district has a track record of paying off bonds sooner.

The district’s existing bond debt is on track to be paid off in 2031.

The new proposal will go before the district’s voters October 12 in a special election. It will require approval by at least 60 percent of voters who cast ballots to pass.

Bond adviser for the district is Steven H. McDonald and Associates in Norman. The board hired Goldsby Construction to manage the planned three-phase project and Beck Design is the architect.

All three companies also worked on the district’s last bond project.

If the measure passes, Reynolds said work will begin next summer.

According to a fact sheet published by the district, the expenditure at the elementary school will be more than $14 million. That will cover the cost of 13 new classrooms across the front, which will be reconfigured with covered drop-off and pickup areas running the length of the building

A new main entry will have security features.

That project will add 17,476 square feet of space.

Eliminating the existing playground will clear space at the back of the elementary school for an additional 12,916 square feet of new construction.

Designated  as a Media Center, the building will include seven additional classrooms while doubling as a storm shelter.

The shelter’s capacity will be 700 students. It will serve as a community shelter when school isn’t in session.

Given Oklahoma’s weather, construction of the storm shelter will be fast-tracked to reach completion “as soon as possible,” Reynolds said.

A covered walkway will connect the Media Center to the elementary and middle schools, as well as the cafeteria.

The playground will be relocated.

A new elementary multi-purpose building is also in the plans. It will replace the existing auditorium and band room

Included in its 12,582-square-foot space will be room for physical education classes and equipment storage.

The facility will feature basketball goals, seating for 550 and space for school performances and assemblies.

A fully-equipped stage will have theatrical lighting with dressing rooms for performers.

Reynolds said the list of cons for the auditorium now ranges from non-working lights to lack of a built-in sound system.

Also, the auditorium isn’t ADA-compliant, he added.

Adjacent to the football field, the proposal includes plans for a 14,861-square-foot Fine Arts Building.

Features there will include a band room with enough space to accommodate up to 80 students.

The acoustic design will extend to an ensemble room and private practice rooms.

The band will have direct access to the football field.

A new locker room and officials’ dressing room is also in the plan, as is a three-window concession stand with covered waiting area.

Relocating administration offices to the north end of the building will allow the district to gain additional classrooms, Reynolds said.

Administration presently occupies re-purposed classroom space, sharing an 8-classroom   building for grades four and five.

By moving administration and remodeling that area, Reynolds believes the district will gain “two to three” additional classrooms.

The district built the Washington Event Center with its last bond.

It will gain a 3,884-square-foot addition that will provide room for banquets and to showcase events.

Other smaller expenditures are also included in the proposal.

Reynolds described the list as “necessary improvements.”

The list includes:

  • new lights on the football field;
  • replace wooden bleachers with metal bleachers;
  • $150,000 to cover the cost of uniforms and equipment.

Reynolds said the bond package is built on 2 percent growth of homes and businesses in the district.

He added if growth exceeds that, the district will be able to pay off the bond faster.

It is anticipated this bond will add $14.94 to every $100 on a property owner’s tax bill.

So for every $1,000 in property tax now, property owners should expect to pay $1,149.39.

Reynolds advises property owners to contact the McClain County Assessor’s Office and request an evaluation to determine the exact amount that will be billed.

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