Public invited to board meetings on next bond issue

posted Feb 22, 2019, 11:16 AM by Granger Meador   [ updated Feb 22, 2019, 11:17 AM ]
On March 27 and April 24, the school board will hold public meetings at noon in the high school’s Hospitality Room to gather community input on the next bond issues.

In 2016, Bartlesville voters overwhelmingly approved bond issues totaling $19.4 million over a five-year period. The primary focus was to compensate for huge cuts in state funding since 2009, including multiple state revenue shortfalls in 2016 which forced the district to cut 5% of its teachers as well as additional administrators and support staff.

The bonds allowed the district to shift more operational costs from its general fund to bond issue funds to prevent additional staffing cuts and increases in class sizes in 2017 and beyond. The bonds expanded on operational funding being provided via a 2012 bond issue, extending that support across 2019-20 and 2020-21.

While Bartlesville voters were willing to shore up the district’s finances, the statewide pressures reached a boiling point in the spring of 2018. The legislature, pressured by a statewide teacher walkout, finally raised taxes to fund a $6,100 average increase in teacher salaries. During the 8-day teacher walkout, Bartlesville community members and organizations supported teachers and students, including helping distribute meals and providing daycare opportunities.

However, the increased state funding for schools was almost entirely devoted to salaries and, because of how the money was distributed, Bartlesville Public Schools did not actually receive enough funding from the state to cover all of the cost of the mandated raises.

Consequently, the district still lacks sufficient operational funding. Only because Bartlesville voters continue to support local bond issues has the district been able to avoid the loss of fine arts, world languages, and similar electives which have been eliminated or reduced in too many other districts. Since bond issue monies cannot be spent on salaries or other non-capital items, the district has still been forced to cut staff in recent years as well as eliminate some elective programs such as Family and Consumer Science.

It appears likely that in August district voters will be asked to consider additional bond issues to address the district’s ongoing operational needs and continue to update its bus fleet and facilities.
The 2016 bond already funded the replacement of all buses older than 2004. The district will be seeking additional funding to replace 13 route buses that were purchased in 2009 or earlier, along with a few other vehicles, to boost the fleet’s efficiency and reliability.

The district will also be seeking operational funding for technology, curriculum, and maintenance needs as well as safety improvements and a few high-priority facility projects.

A significant curricular change funded by the 2016 bond issue is a Student Computing Initiative which is providing take-home Chromebooks to the students at Bartlesville High School. That program will extend to both middle schools in August and will be funding Chromebook carts at each elementary school.  The 2016 bond also funds the purchase of both physical and electronic textbooks along with a variety of instructional and operational software. 

A new bond issue would seek to extend funding for those technology initiatives for two additional years and provide funding to replace the district’s electronic whiteboards in the elementary schools, many of which have been in use for a decade and are approaching their end-of-life, while maintaining the district’s technology infrastructure and services.

Other operational needs funded by the 2016 bond issue which would be extended for two years by a new bond issue include funding for fine arts and athletics uniforms and equipment, science and STEM equipment, and a long list of maintenance projects needed at the district’s school sites. The newest site in the district, Jane Phillips Elementary, is 35 years old and the main buildings at the other sites are even older, with Central Middle School as the oldest operating school site; its western part was built 102 years ago. Regular maintenance is vital for the aging structures, and HVAC and lighting updates will be needed in the years to come to improve their efficiency.

The public is welcome to attend the noon meetings on March 27 and April 24 in the BHS Hospitality Room to learn more about the proposed bond issues and provide feedback on their development.

Major Facility Projects Completed

Beyond operational funding, the 2016 bond issue included $5.7 million in facility projects. You can see visual updates on them here at BRUINBOND.COM. All of the promised facility projects are now complete, including:
  • Renovating 7,000 square feet of existing spaces at Madison Middle School and Bartlesville High School to serve instrumental and choral music programs.
  • Adding a bus loop at Madison Middle School, replacing part of its climate control system, and renovating its auditorium.
  • Renovating the auditorium at Central Middle School, which was the only portion of that campus not addressed in a 2013 bond issue.
  • Renovating existing spaces in the 1939 Phillips Field House and the 2009 Bruin Activity Center to provide dedicated spaces for the pom and cheer programs, a relocated athletics weight room, and more dedicated space for wrestling.
  • Renovation of the lower level of Custer Stadium to provide locker rooms for soccer, track, cross country, and tennis.
  • Resurfacing of the Doornbos Track at BHS and replacement of the decrepit tennis courts with a new and expanded facility.
  • Adding a locker room at the softball facility west of Madison Middle School and renovating the baseball press box and locker rooms at Doenges Memorial Stadium.
The district is always careful to budget sufficiently so that all promised facility projects can be completed. Once the above projects were completed and after ensuring bond issue funding was preserved for ongoing operational and maintenance needs, the district was able to fund the replacement of the turf on Lyon Field at Custer Stadium as described below.

New turf completed on Lyon Field at Custer Stadium

In February the new turf at the high school was completed. It replaced the turf installed in 2008 via a $650,000 donation from the Lyon Foundation, fulfilling the district's long-term commitment to the Foundation. Supt. Chuck McCauley shared, "We are very fortunate that the Lyon Foundation paid for the turf originally. The agreement was that the foundation would pay for it, and the district would maintain it and replace it when it was time.” Funding for the turf replacement came from the district's 2016 bond issue once all large promised facility projects were completed, while preserving bond issue funding for ongoing operational and maintenance needs.

The new turf will make Bartlesville High School the first in the state to feature a shock padding underlay with AstroTurf Rootzone 3D3 Blend to provide better shock absorbency and protection for players. The shock pad will be installed between the sub-base layer and the turf and includes a 25-year warranty. Superintendent McCauley has stated, "I am really excited about the opportunity to install a shock pad and feel like this is the best product for our students." The new turf is the type that has been used for practice facilities at OSU and OU. The new turf logos use Lagoon Blue as a match for the light blue of the Bruins, navy blue, and white, with different shades of green every 10 yards. 

Since the photo below was taken, temporary soccer lines have been painted on the field for soccer season which will be renewed annually.

New turf on Lyon Field at Custer Stadium