A special election will decide if Ardmore City Schools will be able to make needed upgrades to its schools, buy new buses to replace outdated ones and build a new district performing arts center.
The Ardmore City Schools Board of Education held a special meeting Wednesday and voted to move forward with the special election. If voter approved, the school board will begin issuing $50.8 million in bonds to help pay for key improvements around the district.
The ballot will be split into two questions, the first will request $48.3 million which will include everything not transportation related. This question will look at constructing a performing arts center west of Noble Stadium and include all the furniture, equipment and fixtures necessary to make the center operational.
Having a performing arts center is something community members have been hoping for for some time and by far the largest project the approval of the bond issue would finance.
“We have a community that is interested in the arts and right now we have to borrow churches to perform in,” Ardmore City Schools Superintendent Kim Holland said. “We’ve been listening to the community, and this is something they want. There is so much research that says those who are involved in fine arts during high school do better on the ACT and SAT.”
Improvements to Ardmore High School such as a band room addition, new cafeteria restrooms, renovations to existing restrooms, acoustical operable folding partitions and courtyard canopy renovations will all be included as part of this question. At Charles Evans Elementary, improvements will include mitigation of water intrusion under the foundation. At Ardmore Middle School the board plans to do exterior repairs and create storage for the wrestling room. Lastly, under this question, the former Ardmore higher education center will see improvements to the facility’s HVAC equipment, roofing and electrical.
“If we repair these buildings they will serve us well for years to come, if not, they will deteriorate and cost us more later,” Holland said. “If this isn’t approved, the deterioration will continue and we will try to fix what we can with our operating budget, but most of that goes to operating costs like paying the teachers. We’re hoping to get on a maintenance plan so we don’t get this far behind again.”
The second question citizens will vote on asks for $2.5 million in bonds to be issued so the district can update its outdated bus fleet. Most of the buses in the fleet are more than 20 years old with 12 of the school’s buses lacking air conditioning.
If all goes according to plan, Ardmore City Schools will receive $1 million of those funds to purchase additional buses right away, and $300,000 annually for the following five years.
The bond election is currently scheduled to be held Oct. 10, but may have to be moved since the Carter County Commission is also trying to secure that date for their special sales tax election. If so, the board will have to hold another meeting to move the election date.
Holland said the school board chose to hold a special election instead of waiting for the general election because waiting would cost the district valuable time. He added that he wasn’t superintendent during the last election, so he’s not sure why a bond for the structural repairs was not included in the last general election, other than the district’s leaders may not have known the extent of the damage.
“We’ve had architects and engineers look at these buildings and these improvements need to be made so students are safe,” Holland said. “We want students to have a quality education that is also safe.”