School bond issue heads to voters

(Rendering/courtesy Mustang Public Schools)

By Traci Chapman

On Tuesday, Mustang Public Schools officials will take a second try at a bond issue aimed at expanding extracurricular activity resources, upgrading technology and providing storm shelters at some schools.

The $7 million proposal is different than a $4.05 million bond issue rejected by voters last November, although it does aim to provide funds for some of the projects listed in the original plan. While the November issue did get a majority of the votes – about 57.3 percent of the ballots cast were in favor of the plan – school bond issues require a 60 percent majority in order to pass.

A second proposition, $750,000 for six new route buses, was approved by voters.

Technology

Mustang Superintendent Sean McDaniel said the $1.6 million slated for “technology infrastructure, equipment and software for classrooms and schools” are items needed across the district. These items include smartboards, 3-D printers, tablets, laptops, iPads and lab equipment for use district-wide in its Science, Technology, Engineering and Math – STEM – program.

“The demands and expectations of our society require that our kids are proficient with the use of technology,” McDaniel said. “Our students will have the ability to acquire technological skills that will allow them to compete at the secondary and post-secondary levels and to allow them to be career-ready.”

Other courses that would benefit by these funds would be robotics and engineering courses, the superintendent said. Mustang High School students have performed well in robotics competitions held this year, an area that has gained interest in recent years, officials said.

Safety issues

If passed by voters, $1 million would be designated to “constructing, equipping, renovating and furnishing” storm shelters at Mustang Education Center and Mustang High School campus, according to the resolution approved by school board members. While each school has refuge areas, older sites do not have shelters certified by Federal Emergency Management Agency, McDaniel said.

Mustang High School

Mustang High School

“The two areas that need attention in our district are on the high school campus (we actually do currently have areas of refuge at MHS) and at the MEC (Mustang Education Center),” McDaniel stated in a recent email.

The cost to build FEMA-certified shelters in older school sites, such as Mustang Elementary School, would be cost-prohibitive, officials said. That school does have a basement that has been historically used to shelter students during storms.

School improvement

Some of Mustang’s older elementary schools would see improvements, if Tuesday’s bond issue passes. New playground equipment – to the tune of $200,000 – would be purchased for Mustang and Lakehoma elementary schools, while $100,000 would be allocated to upgrade lighting at Trails Elementary School and Mustang North Middle School.

Mustang School Board President Chad Fulton, left, and Superintendent Sean McDaniel. (Photo/Traci Chapman)

Mustang School Board President Chad Fulton, left, and Superintendent Sean McDaniel. (Photo/Traci Chapman)

Another $800,000 would be used for acquisition of land for future construction of new schools or other buildings in the south and central areas of the district.

Extracurricular activities funds

The bulk of funding in the $7 million proposal would be used for extracurricular activities. Those programs are as follows:

  • $375,000 for district “arts programs.” This would include instruments, stage lighting, software and band uniforms.
  • $300,000 for “constructing, equipping and furnishing a new barn for the agricultural education program.” The district’s barn, utilized by FFA and 4-H students, is located at 7916 S. County Line Road.
  • $1.225 million for “constructing, equipping and furnishing a softball training facility for use by the MHS softball and baseball teams.”
  • $1.4 million for “constructing, equipping and furnishing a new ROTC training and instructional center” at Mustang High School.

More than 200 students participate in Mustang High School’s band program alone, with hundreds more taking middle-school level classes, as well as drama, choir and other arts activities, officials said. The $375,000 would help fund needs for lighting, uniforms, instruments and other items used by those individuals.

(Map courtesy Mustang Public Schools)

(Map courtesy Mustang Public Schools)

McDaniel said about 200 students currently participate in the district’s agriculture programs, a number which has caused issues because of a 37-year-old barn that is not suited to that level of activity.

“We have so many students who need space to raise animals that each pen in the barn has two or three animals in it,” McDaniel said. “The pens are designed for one animal to each pen.

“Not only is this an unhealthy practice, it makes it nearly impossible to properly raise the animals,” he said.

Because of the aged barn and lack of space, the district has been forced to turn away students interested in participating in the program, the superintendent said. It has also meant that other needed activities – like welding stations, lab areas and needed equipment – must go by the wayside.

“AgEd teaches many life skills, from leadership to discipline to a good work ethic,” McDaniel said. “Our kids need more space.”

With Mustang competing in 6A classification and with Mustang High School listed as the largest high school in the Oklahoma City metropolitan area, an expansion of the district’s baseball complex was essential, the superintendent said.

“Because of its size, only four to six kids at a time can use the facility,” McDaniel said. “A new facility would allow 25 to 30 kids to use the facility at one time and would provide the same opportunities for our kids as other 6A programs provide for theirs.

“Baseball and softball, along with other athletic programs in Mustang, provide opportunities for our students to learn about sportsmanship, leadership, teamwork and other valuable life skills that they will take with them long after they graduate,” he said. “Providing quality facilities that allow these kids to reach their full potential is important.”

Like the district’s agriculture education program, Junior ROTC is an area that has been underfunded, with students utilizing three classrooms at Mustang High School, as well as an old physical education building, McDaniel said.

“The creation of a stand-alone facility would free up much-needed space at the high school for academic offerings like STEM labs or technology labs,” the superintendent said. “Unfortunately, we have run out of space for the program, and the current facility would require in excess of $600,000 to bring it up to standards that would allow us to continue using it.”

The proposed $1.4 million JROTC housing would include a training area, offices, classrooms and storage, McDaniel said.

“The Mustang JROTC program offers opportunities to students who may not have found a niche anywhere else,” he said.

“We want what’s best for our students, to give them every opportunity we can to excel, to achieve and to learn the skills they need down the road in life,” McDaniel said.

Polls will be open from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. Tuesday.

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