Plainview bond proposal could see all campuses with safe rooms by 2024

Michael D. Smith
The Daily Ardmoreite

The campus of Plainview Public Schools has seen plenty of expansion and upgrades over the years, most notably after a May 1995 tornado tore the roof from Plainview High School. Superintendent Carl Stricker, a teacher at the time, remembers the sight of debris littering the campus and said storm shelters on campus are still regularly used by students, teachers and members of the community when dangerous weather looms. 

A school bus sits parked near the western side of Plainview Middle School Tuesday, April 6, 2021. If approved by voters, a $2.5 million safe room will be accessible from the doors shown.

If the largest of two bond proposals is approved by voters this spring, every building on the sprawling Plainview campus can expect to have a safe room and storm shelter by 2024. 

Plainview Public Schools will be asking voters to approve two bond projects totaling more than $15.9 million in May. The larger, $15.3 million proposal, includes new safe rooms at the middle and elementary campuses along with other campus expansion and upgrades of lighting, transportation and air conditioning. 

A second transportation proposal would provide $600,000 to replace six of the district’s buses. With 12 bus routes, some activity buses and at least one backup bus, Stricker said the district tries to update about one-third of the fleet every five years.  

A Plainview school bus sits parked near the Pride of Plainview band trailer Tuesday, April 6, 2021. A $600,000 bond proposal to replace about one-third of the district's bus fleet will be considered by voters next month.

He said both proposals are being made as previous bonds are ending and neither would result in tax increases.  

“We’ve always tried to make them where they are just continuous,” Stricker said on Tuesday. This will be the third pair of bond proposals since 2012 and slightly smaller than the $16.7 million worth of bonds approved by voters in 2015. 

“The community has been extremely supportive of the schools and we’ve been very blessed with the Plainview community,” he said.  

A 3/5 majority, or 60%, of votes are needed to approve a school bond issue in Oklahoma. No bond issue from Plainview Public Schools has received less than 80% support from voters since at least 2010, according to historical election data. 

A district committee set off last year to begin the process of addressing upgrades. Stricker said surveys were sent to collect information on what would be most important and needs were prioritized. Projects like a new auditorium and parking lot upgrades were among less pressing issues for the current proposal. 

Wind blows three trees in a small field behind Plainview High School Tuesday, April 6, 2021. The field will be home to a nearly $4.7 million addition of art classrooms if approved by voters next month.

“The committee and staff have been very careful in about how much can we do yet keep a projected no tax increase,” Stricker said. “Some things get moved to another potential issue down the road. We’re always trying to look five years ahead.” 

Safe rooms, technology upgrades and classroom expansions are worth almost $11.2 million, or over 73% of the larger proposal. Nearly $2.3 million would be spent on HVAC upgrades at the middle school, primary school and auditorium. Cafeteria upgrades and student driver vehicles are also addressed in the larger proposal. 

Stricker said that the district has seen steady growth over the past seven years, especially before the pandemic. He estimated that the district grows by about a classroom each year and wants the campus, programs and faculty to keep up with that growth. 

With classroom additions expected for the early education center and high school, Stricker said one challenge that cannot be addressed directly by the bond proposals is the statewide teacher shortage.  

“Even prior to the pandemic, there’s been a teacher shortage. It’s a challenge but we’re doing everything we can to make sure we’re meeting the needs of those students,” he said.  

Even though the bonds being requested by the district cannot be used for teacher salaries, Stricker said that they can indirectly impact teacher recruitment and retention. 

“Where bond issues might help you if you’re looking at the teacher thing is the condition of your campus. Do you have well maintained buildings? Do you have mechanical systems that work? Do you have space that teachers feel comfortable with?” 

Stricker said the district remains on solid financial footing despite budget cuts and growing expenses. “We’ve weathered quite a bit. We had some budget cuts from the state and we’ve had some shortfalls at the state level,” he said. 

If approved by voters, the proposals would result in about three years of work across the district. Stricker said work would be phased to reduce the impact on the school year and could start as soon as this summer. 

“If we are blessed and it does pass, we have projects lined up for July,” said Stricker. 

Residents in the Plainview Public School district will need to register to vote by April 16 in order to cast a ballot in the May 11 special election. The deadline to request an absentee ballot will be May 4 and early voting will be on May 6 and May 7.