Editor's note: This is part three of four in a series looking at how Ardmore City Schools has been impacted by the Vision 2020 initiative. Part three looks at major capital improvement projects since 2013.

Editor's note: This is part three of four in a series looking at how Ardmore City Schools has been impacted by the Vision 2020 initiative. Part three looks at major capital improvement projects since 2013.

When Ardmore Vision 2020 was conceived in 2009, Ardmore City Schools was putting the finishing touches on a $390,000 roof upgrade at the high school gymnasium. For the next two years, roof upgrades would also happen at Charles Evans and Jefferson Elementary and total more than $300,000.

While these would be considered major investments for any public school system, the work done across Ardmore schools between 2009 and 2011 pales in comparison to upgrades that have occurred in the past five years.

Lacy Barton first joined Ardmore City Schools about 13 years ago and today is the principal of Lincoln Elementary School. Even though she was working at a different school when Lincoln Elementary was rebuilt about four years ago, the impact of a completely new school building was not lost on the former Lincoln Elementary student.

“It’s not the school I went to, the building per se, but it’s still Lincoln,” Barton said. Even with a display case of old Lincoln Elementary artifacts seen every day and her own personal memories from her time as a student, Barton knows her excitement about the new building does not compare to the excitement of some other community members. “Since I’ve been here, there’s been a lot of people that have been in, wanting to see the building, excited about it,” she said.

According to a fact sheet from the Ardmore Chamber of Commerce, a major accomplishment for local education to come out of the Vision 2020 initiative was the 2013 passage and 2018 renewal of a cent countywide sales tax for education. The increased revenue, coupled with voter approval of bond issues for Ardmore City Schools, correlates with a huge jump in annual spending by the school system on building and land improvements.

Along with a nearly $12.5 million rebuild of Lincoln Elementary, Ardmore City Schools has also started work on a $2.7 million expansion of Jefferson Elementary and $36.8 million performing arts center. These three projects total $52 million, or 45 times more than all building and land improvements between 2009 and 2013, according to information from school officials.

Principal Myiesha Antwine at Jefferson Elementary currently uses an old classroom at the south end of the building as the school office. Farther north on campus, construction crews are busy building a brand new gym, PE office areas, school entryway, administration offices, and parking lot.

Navigating the neighborhoods around the construction can be slightly confusing because of construction, but Antwine said the construction has not been very disruptive to classes. “Staff can’t wait because we’re also getting a new parking lot...and new street in front of the school,” she said.

Ardmore High School speech and debate teacher Brian Gunter is most anticipating the district’s new performing arts center, which broke ground in October. Student theater productions are currently rehearsed in classrooms without any technical or stage facilities, or in performance venues that are rented.

On a recent visit to Ardmore High School, set pieces, costumes, and props were stored in a classroom adjacent to Gunter’s classroom which doubles as a practice room.

“There has been a lot of physical improvements to Ardmore district, just in general,” he said, referring to the major construction projects across the system. Beyond construction and upgrades to school buildings, Gunter also expressed excitement about worn and dated SUVs used for student transportation that were recently replaced thanks to a $1 million bond approved earlier this year.

Gunter said additions to the district, like a performing arts center, not only give students a venue to rehearse and perform, but also expands the students’ education. “My students don’t really have a true sense of what real technical aspects of theater are because there is nothing to teach them with,” he said.

While Gunter believes the Ardmore Vision 2020 initiative has helped improve Ardmore City Schools, he would like to see more teachers involved in decision making for Vision 2025. “Teachers are left out of that equation a lot, when really they should be the ones that are the heartbeat of it,” he said.