MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

October 29, 2012

School board eyes bond wish list

STEM building, Sadler remodel, sports facilities considered

By Cathy Spaulding
Phoenix Staff Writer

— New sports facilities at Muskogee High School and a STEM building at Alice Robertson Junior High are part of a massive wish list Muskogee Board of Education members studied Monday.

“This list is extremely preliminary, and we want to go through items on our long-range plan,” Muskogee Superintendent Mike Garde said as he presented the board with a building needs assessment list containing 339 items.

The board will winnow through the list as they plan a bond issue for May 14. Board members also need to decide how much and how long the bond issue would be. Garde said a $25.8 million bond issue would be paid out over five years, a $38.5 million bond issue paid out in seven and a $55 million bond issue paid out in 10. Garde has said the bond issue would not raise taxes.

The needs assessment list gave a priority number and designation to each project.

A classroom building focusing on science, technology, engineering and math (known as STEM) is a main priority for Alice Robertson Junior High, said MPS Maintenance and Facilities Director Wayne Johnson.

Architect Mike Martin of Renaissance Architects/Engineers said the new facility could feature eight classrooms with laboratories. It could feature such modern amenities as geothermal energy and even have a wind energy generator, Martin said, comparing the wind generator to one outside the McDonald’s on the Muskogee Turnpike.

“What’s neat is that we can add classes and bring a modern look to the campus but not detract from the existing building,” Johnson said. A good place for the new facility would be on the southwest corner of the AR campus, at Callahan and N streets, he said.

Addition of the STEM classrooms could enable the school district to potentially move all seventh- and eighth-graders to AR and out of Sadler Arts Academy and Ben Franklin Science Academy, Garde said.

Estimated cost of the STEM classrooms is $2.59 million, the needs list said. The list gave the STEM classrooms a high priority.

Remodeling the Sadler Arts Academy gym into a library, classrooms and a dance studio was listed as another high priority. Johnson said Sadler is overcrowded, and renovation could open up at least three classrooms in space taken up by the library.

Further down the priority list is a proposal for a new competitive gym or multipurpose facility for MHS.

Martin presented the board with the concept of a 3,000-square-foot facility for basketball, wrestling, volleyball, cheer-pom and other activities.

School board member John Barton suggested the school consider including an area with fitness equipment students can use.

Board member Larry Leatherman said the current MHS gyms are not adequate for the variety of indoor sports the school has.

“When you run varsity sports, sophomore and freshmen sports, two gyms are not enough,” Leatherman said. “You have nine teams trying to use two gyms.”

The new gym, estimated at $13.2 million, was designated a medium priority. Board members also discussed a new baseball and softball hitting facility with locker rooms at MHS, estimated cost, $4.4 million.

Updating technology and the bus fleet were also ranked as high priorities.

Barton brought up the possibility of gradually converting the bus fleet into compressed natural gas vehicles. The district also needs to update textbooks to reflect sweeping changes in state curriculum over the next few years, Garde said.

Reach Cathy Spaulding at (918) 684-2928 or cspaulding@muskogeephoenix.com.