As an eventful school year winds down, Ardmore City Schools is planning ahead.
Districts statewide are facing questions about how to defend against school shootings and how legislation passed in response to the teacher walkout will effect them. Ardmore is also preparing for some sizable construction projects funded by the $44,165,000 bond passed last month.
Regular active shooter response training will begin next school year. The Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate model was originally planned to begin at the end of this year, but had to be postponed. Ardmore police officers who’ve received ALICE training will work with teachers and staff as well as students to prepare for the possibility of a school shooting.
“They’ve already done training at some of our elementary schools but it needs to be ongoing,” Ardmore City Schools Superintendent Kim Holland said. “It’s something you have to do over and over again.”
Construction on the new projects included in the latest school bond will not start any time soon. Holland said the administrators are meeting with architects and builders to hash out plans for the performing arts center, a new gym at Jefferson Elementary and some minor projects at Ardmore High School this week.
“There will not be ground broken on anything this summer,” Holland said. “The next five or six months will be mostly about planning the project and taking bids. Then, the work will probably start around October or November.”
Infrastructure work on Ardmore High School will likely be first, followed by Jefferson. Work on the 800-seat performing arts center, easily the largest project, will begin last.
Though a month has passed since the teacher walkout, questions about teacher pay raises remain. After HB 1010, which includes tax hikes to fund teacher pay raises, support staff pay raises and education funding, was passed, a group called Oklahoma Taxpayers Unite has started a petition to put a state question that would eliminate the taxes funding those pay raises on the next general election ballot. Holland said he was initially excited for the legislation, but he now has concerns.
“That has put everybody in limbo,” Holland said. “We can’t commit to paying those salaries without the funding from the state. We’re stuck waiting until July.”
Even if the referendum doesn’t pass, the election would delay the pay raises by several months.
“It could cause us to lose teachers to other states,” Holland said. “We could lose quite a few people because they don’t think there’s any hope to raise a family here. There’s just no way around it.”