Voters are gearing up to visit the polls on Tuesday, Feb. 11, to decide the outcome of Owasso Public Schools’ 2020 bond issue.
The proposal, if passed, will yield $11.3 million in improvements for textbooks, technology, infrastructure and transportation across the district.
“This really is a strategic financial approach to supporting that vision that the most important thing to a child is a teacher in the classroom and having the greatest access to resources,” OPS Superintendent Amy Fichtner said.
The ballot will reflect two separate propositions, the first covering operations and maintenance at over $9.8 million, and the second focusing on transportation at more $1.5 million. The bond is not projected to increase taxes.
OPS’ latest issue serves as its second in the last two years, the first of which passed in Feb. 2018 by an overwhelming margin. The dollars from each bond go toward improving the overall climate of the district, Chief Financial Officer Phillip Storm said.
“It allows us to have one of the highest teacher salary packages…it allows us to have one of the lowest student-to-teacher ratios,” Storm said, “because we’re able to focus our general fund on those priorities rather than using them for the needs that this bond issue can take care of instead.”
Proposition No. 1 will allocate $510,000 for uniforms and equipment in fine arts and athletics. This includes replacing dresses and tuxedos for the choir along with outfits for each of Owasso’s varsity teams as part of the district’s refreshing cycle.
Owasso Athletic Director Zach Duffield said due to typical wear and tear through competition, he hopes to have every team in the athletic department outfitted with new uniforms every four years.
Another $600,000 will add new flooring and equipment to the weight room in the Wellness Center at Owasso High School.
The flooring used for the varsity and junior varsity sports, along with the freshmen teams, would be resurfaced with inlaid platforms, a smooth surface that protects the ground and equipment from damage during training. Monies would also be used to purchase 14 additional weight-lifting racks, which would allow more student athletes to utilize the facility at a given time.
“It allows for every sport to be serviced without any restraints,” said Owasso Strength and Conditioning Coordinator Jordan Johnson, who believes the updates will provide a safer and more efficient workout experience for Ram student athletes.
Over $2.4 million is also slated for updating instructional materials, including digital resources, as part of the district’s textbook adoption cycle. Going into next year, officials plan to use the funds to purchase new items for social studies classes.
Additionally, more than $2.7 million is reserved for replacing teachers’ desktop computers with laptops and renewing students’ one-to-one (1:1) devices, to name a few.
“We are, with this bond, moving forward with the idea that in every subject, a child should have technology available when the instructional need arises,” Fichtner said. “We want it to be there so there’s no gap in instruction.”
The last of the monies from Proposition 1 will elect $3.4 million for upgrading roofs, parking lots, HVAC units, flooring, lighting and more at different school sites across OPS.
Proposition No. 2, a separate measure on the ballot totaling over $1.5 million, will go toward purchasing transportation equipment, including buses to transport students to and from different school sites.
Owasson Lindsey Price, who has three kids enrolled in OPS, attended a public meeting on Thursday, Jan. 30, about the bond issue and said she wanted to learn more regarding the measure.
“I’m interested in where our money is going,” Price said, “and I love the district, I love what they’re doing, and I’m fully supportive of it.”
OPS has passed every bond issue over the last 12 years. The district’s passage rate has averaged over 70 percent and reached its peak of 84 percent with the approval of its $23 million bond issue in 2015.
“It’s aligning all of our objectives, and we are fortunate beyond measure to have a community that truly, truly values education,” Fichtner said, “and when they vote, that is their way of saying, ‘We value education’”
Owasso Reporter Sports Editor Shawn Hein contributed to this story.