School bond issues, May 11 special election
Edmond Public Schools is one of seven districts with bond issues on the ballot for the Tuesday, May 11, 2021, special election. (Megan Prather)

Seven Oklahoma school districts will have bond issues on the ballot for the May 11 special election, including Edmond, Moore, Covington-Douglas, Plainview, Bishop, South Coffeyville and South Rock Creek Public Schools.

Funding from school bond issues must specifically be spent on improvements to the school district, such as construction, repairs, technology, transportation and acquiring various furniture and equipment. Bonds issuances provide funding for districts via loans that are paid back over time with local property tax revenues.

According to state law, school bond measures must receive a supermajority of at least 60 percent of the vote in order to be approved.

Edmond: ‘We’ve gotten a lot of bang out of our buck’

Edmond Public Schools, in Oklahoma County, will have two bond propositions on the ballot. Proposition 1 is for a $63.7 million bond issue that would go toward school upgrades and additions, security, curriculum, technology and purchasing land for future schools.

Some of the projects planned with this bond issue include:

  • $3 million to construct a new media center at Cross Timbers Elementary and to renovate the old media center into classrooms;
  • $8 million to construct classroom additions at Redbud and Scissortail Elementary Schools;
  • $3 million for a classroom addition at Santa Fe High School;
  • $3.2 million to construct a freshman academy and to renovate the industrial arts building at Edmond Memorial High School;
  • $1.4 million to construct a new district building for agriculture, engineering and mechanics;
  • $750,000 to upgrade security measures to include electronic security and door devices, student and staff photo ID badges and card reader systems and video surveillance cameras.

Proposition 2 would provide $1.3 million for transportation, including the purchase of buses and high-capacity sports utility vehicles.

The board of the Edmond Public Schools Foundation recently voted to endorse the school bond propositions.

“The bond issue that’s been proposed will provide funding that will touch every school, and because of that it will touch every student and help benefit every student within the Edmond Public Schools district,” Edmond Public Schools Foundation President Jeff DeSpain said. “It will help maintain the excellent standards of education that we’ve come to expect here in Edmond through things like technology, upgrades to the different facilities and curriculum.”

DeSpain said that if voters approve these propositions, it would mark the 60th consecutive bond issue to pass for Edmond Public Schools.

“The support that our area has shown the school district is incredible, but I think we’ve gotten a lot of bang out of our buck too,” DeSpain said.”It’s a huge testament to Edmond and Edmond’s support of the school district.”

DeSpain said the timing of bond sales will coincide with the retirement of existing bonds and that the passage of the propositions would avoid raising property taxes.

“We’ve been able to maintain an amazing school district over many, many years. The fact that this bond will not be raising taxes — it will only be replacing a current millage rate to support an older bond — is a bonus to me,” DeSpain said.

In 2019, voters approved two bond issues totaling $93 million for technology, school security, construction and transportation.

“The Edmond Public Schools district is the gravity that pulls people and businesses to our area,” DeSpain said. “If bonds aren’t passed and funding is reduced, the education experience that we can provide our children will diminish. If that occurs, I think you’ll see the demand that we’ve seen in this area that is driven by our wonderful school district diminish.”

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Moore: ‘This community has never failed to step up’

Moore Public Schools, in Cleveland County and the southern slice of Oklahoma County, will also have two school bond propositions on the May 11 special election ballot. Proposition 1 is for a $338.7 million bond issue that would be used for construction, renovation, replacement and repair projects. Some of these projects include:

  • Technology updates at all schools in the district;
  • The addition of air conditioning at 20 elementary school gymnasiums;
  • Security updates for school sites;
  • The addition of science labs at all junior high schools;
  • The addition of college and career readiness centers at all district high schools.

Proposition 2 would provide an $8 million bond for the purchase of transportation equipment.

Superintendent of Moore Public Schools Robert Romines said this will be the largest bond issue ever placed in front of the Moore community.

“The community’s alive and growing, and that’s a great place to be,” Romines said. “We’ve been through a lot over the years. This community has never failed to step up and take care of the people in Moore Public Schools, and, in turn, Moore Public Schools is taking care of this community.”

Romines said the district’s Patrons’ Advisory Council, which has been in existence since the early 1990s, is the group that first pieces together the district’s bond issues.

“Technology is always going to be part of our future bond issues. That’s just the world we live in,” Romines said. “But the biggest piece, as far as the high schools are concerned, are college and career readiness centers.”

Romines said these centers will help aid students on a college pathway as well as students who plan on entering the career field immediately after graduation. He said the district has already begun working with Dell to bring internship programs to the classroom.

“Our students will actually be Dell-certified by the time they graduate,” Romines said. “Our goal now is that once our students graduate from one of the three high schools, every one of them will have a career pathway or will be heading towards college.”

At the six junior high schools in the district, the bond will build new STEM classrooms.

“This is the last piece to the great big puzzle of our STEM initiative,” Romines said. “We’re the largest school district in the state of Oklahoma that has a comprehensive kindergarten through 12th-grade STEM program.”

As with Edmond Public Schools, Romines said the way Moore’s proposed bond issues are structured, the district does not anticipate a property tax increase over the life of the bond issue.

“We try to work really hard to keep our mills at a certain rate across the board. When bond issues expire, we bring another one on, and by doing that, typically, you don’t see a tax increase,” Romines said.

Covington-Douglas: ‘In the last 20 years, I don’t think a bond issue has ever failed’

May 11 special election
Covington-Douglas Public Schools spans Garfield, Kingfisher, Logan and Nobel counties. (Screenshot: Google Maps)

There will also be two school bond propositions, totaling nearly $9.8 million on the ballot for Covington-Douglas Public Schools, which spans Garfield, Kingfisher, Logan and Noble counties.

Proposition 1 would provide a bond issue for about $9.4 million with funds going toward additions and facility upgrades including:

  • Constructing a new classroom building for the high school, north of the existing gym;
  • Constructing a new agriculture education classroom and workshop south of the existing bus barn;
  • Constructing an expansion to the existing bus barn to allow more space for district vehicles.

Proposition 2 would provide the district with $375,000 to purchase three new route buses and one new activity bus.

“This is a projected no-tax-increase bond issue, if projections hold,” Covington-Douglas Public Schools Superintendent Darren Sharp said. “I’ve been here 15 years and have passed serval bond issues. In the last 20 years, I don’t think a bond issue has ever failed.”

Sharp said the current bus barn is too small, the agriculture education building is across campus from the school farm and that the existing classroom buildings have leaks and are energy inefficient.

“Just the thought of having our kids in these new classrooms — I’m really excited about the classroom building,” Sharp said. “It’s hard to explain without seeing where we are right now, but it would be nice to get them in new, beautiful classrooms.”

Other school bond proposals

There will also be school bond elections for Plainview Public Schools, in Carter County; South Coffeyville Public Schools, in Nowata County; Bishop Public School, in Comanche County; and South Rock Creek Public School, in Pottawatomie County:

  • Plainview Schools will ask voters to approve two school bond issues at a combined total of $15.9 million for transportation needs and other projects, such installing safe rooms at the middle and elementary schools.
  • South Coffeyville Schools will have a bond proposal for a total of $400,000 to replace the roof of the elementary school and install playground equipment.
  • Bishop Public School, a pre-K through sixth-grade school in far south Lawton near the airport, is aiming to pass a $7.9 million bond issue in order to build a middle school so the district can expand to educating those grade bands as well.
  • South Rock Creek School will propose a $390,000 bond issue to purchase vehicles for student transportation.