What might $2.7 million buy a district?


Illustration courtesy of Duncan Public Schools.

This illustration of the proposed future high school campus showcases the renovated art building, circled in red. The amphitheater, circled in blue, is no longer part of the planned changes of the bond issue.

Money, tornadoes, art classes and fifth graders are among the biggest aspects of the latest Duncan Public Schools bond issue.

On Feb. 10, the people of Duncan will decide whether or not to approve the $2.7 million issue, which deals primarily with storm shelters at the high school and EDGE Academy and with renovations to the EDGE facility to turn it into a fifth grade center.

“In a school district, there are always going to be needs as we move forward and as times change,” Interim Superintendent of Duncan Public Schools Glenda Cobb said. “This initiative fulfills a current need.”

To pay for the $2.7 million cost, the bond would raise Duncan’s property tax millage from 15.02 to 18.49 mils. This is an increase of 3.47 mils, or .0347%, of a home’s total value per year. For example, taxes on a $100,000 home would increase by $34.70 a year.

This money would be put to use on two main projects. At the high school, it would be used to convert part of the art building into a multipurpose storm shelter room capable of holding around 600 people in the event of severe weather. The current EDGE Academy, the district’s alternative school, would receive partial renovations and would become the new fifth grade center for the whole district. The EDGE’s storm shelter would also be brought up to more modern standards.

Duncan Public Schools Maintenance Director Len Lawson says the proposed shelters are superior to the current storm shelter procedures.

“In the high school right now, we do not have a storm shelter as per say in case a tornado comes,” Lawson said. “We don’t have a place to protect the students and the faculty. We’re anticipating turning part of that arts building into a storm shelter that’s FEMA rated, that’ll withstand an F5 tornado. That’s going to take some doing.”

The renovations to the high school art building would see the east wing of the building, which houses the former ceramics room and other classes, demolished, and most of the remaining structure would be changed to have a multipurpose storm shelter room in the easternmost end and four new art classrooms near the current student center. The westernmost portion of the art building would remain unaltered.

The new storm shelter, capable of holding around 600 people, together with the space under the bleachers in the high school gym that can be used as a storm shelter, would allow room for around 1,000 people in the event of severe weather. These storm shelters would all be approved by FEMA standards. FEMA, or the Federal Emergency Management Agency, is a government agency that deals with disaster and emergency management. The current high school storm safety plan includes shelters that aren’t FEMA rated.

“The bond issue would provide a safe room,” high school head principal Justin Smith said. “Right now we’re able to get about 400 kids in the gymnasium underneath the bleachers, and it would be FEMA-rated over there. Right now, there’s about six to seven hundred kids that are going to have to go into a hallway or interior classroom, and it’s not a FEMA-rated safe room. There would be a safe room at the end of [the art building] that would [be FEMA rated], and it could be a multi-use room also. We might be able to use it for other things as well.”

One aspect of this plan to change the art building is the demolition of the east wing, in addition to the space left by the destruction of the old cafeteria, would leave a large space on the campus with nothing on it. According to Smith, this space would be filled with landscaping, but the original plans for the space included a recreational amphitheater.

“There’ll just be landscaping put up there,” he said. “We’re going to try to make it look nice. The original plans in the bond issue, kind of an alternate thing, was an amphitheater. It had some cement bleachers and things where students could maybe do some kind of performances, or just a place to hang out.”

However, the plans for the amphitheater were cancelled because of cost reasons, and the decision was made to instead turn the space into a landscaping project.

The other main aspect of the bond issue is the changes to the EDGE Academy, which would be turned into the faith grade center. The renovations would see the EDGE’s easternmost gym getting converted into a cafeteria and four new classrooms, to better accommodate fifth grade school life. A storm shelter area would also be modernized with better lighting and ventilation.

“At the current EDGE building, the back gym will become four additional classrooms and a serving area, and then there’s a bump-out for the kitchen,” Cobb said. “And then that building is not air conditioned. The two major expenses at that campus are going to be the HVAC system and the kitchen.”

According to Lawson, the district already has some elements ready for the fifth grade center cafeteria.

“We saved enough equipment out of the old cafeteria that is good equipment, very modern equipment, to put the equipment in over there,” he said.

To be able to turn the campus into a fifth grade center, the EDGE Academy will be relocated to the high school west building, which will be split between the EDGE students and the high school freshmen. The west building is currently undergoing changes as a result of the last bond issue, which was passed in 2012.

Cobb said that the EDGE students are going to be moving to the high school campus even if the bond issue doesn’t pass.

“The plan is that the alternative school kids are going to move to the high school anyway,” she said. “The west building is being redesigned, and part of that purpose is to configure an area for those classes. So that’s going to happen whether the bond issue passes or not.”

The bond issue would have definite effects on students at the high school, students at the EDGE Academy and fifth grade students throughout the district. The people of Duncan will decide whether these effects, as well as the $2.7 million cost of the bond issue, are right for the district on Feb. 10.

For more information, go to the  http://duncanps.org//index.php?pageID=75122_2.