MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

May 5, 2013

$47.5M bond to bring tech to MPS students

Bond will not increase taxes; voters to cast ballots May 14

By Wendy Burton
Phoenix Staff Writer

— Muskogee Public School officials said they want to prepare students for the 21st century in a big way with an upcoming $47.5 million bond issue.

The bond issue, in which voters cast their ballots May 14, will not raise taxes. It replaces an expiring bond, so the tax rate will remain the same, said Superintendent Mike Garde.

And because of sweeping educational changes and budget issues in the state, the bond is much needed, he said.

“This bond issue is for the students, so Muskogee can continue to provide the technology our students need to be prepared for the new global world,” Garde said.

District Chief Financial Officer John Little said he needs the bond issue to pass so he can save jobs as he prepares next year’s budget.

“First and foremost it will save some jobs, because it will allow us to keep the building fund for custodial or utilities expenses,” Little said. “Secondly, on technology, we are at the life’s end of a lot of our computers, servers and connections, and they need to be replaced.”

Garde said there’s something for every student in this bond issue, including technology, new buildings, new programs and athletic program improvements.

Technology comprises $14.8 million of the bond issue monies, or about 35 percent of the funds.

For the district, there’s projects that will save the district money and protect the environment, including converting to natural gas-fueled buses, “green” vehicles, and “green” buildings, Garde said.

Natural gas costs 90 cents a gallon, he said — offering a great deal of savings when 12 new CNG buses are purchased.

The transportation projects are in a separate $2.2 million bond the public also will vote on.

Many elementary schools will also receive much-needed repairs, he said.



Technology greatest portion of bond

Among the largest projects that will be funded by the bond is the “one-to-one” initiative.

“Every student in grades seventh through 12th will have their own laptop,” Garde said. “All the laptops will be insured and secured so they can’t be used for anything but school work, and we’ll be using the My Big Campus system for assignments.”

My Big Campus, www.mybigcampus.com, is a program that teachers, administrators and students will use to assign work, provide resources to students and track grades and assessments.

The students will take their laptops home each day and will be able to do their homework assignments without an Internet connection, Garde said.

When the students get back on campus, their computers automatically connect to the server, and some assignments get graded, Garde said. Some assignments, such as multimedia projects or writing assignments will continue to be graded by teachers.

“It gives the students immediate feedback and lets them see exactly where they are, so they are in control of their work and their grades,” Garde said. “And that will inspire them to be better.”

The system is similar to those area colleges use, such as Moodle at Bacone College or Blackboard at Northeastern State University.



High tech lab for school, community

Other technology that will be funded includes equipment for a “Fab Lab,” Garde said.

The Fab Lab concept originated with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

“It’s about building prototypes, and the future for that in technology is huge because they believe someday they’ll be able to build hearts with a 3-D printer,” he said.

The district already has some of the equipment in place to create the lab, such as a plasma cutter, but will seek to purchase the newest 3-D printer technology, he said.

Students of all ages will have access to the lab and Garde said he’s hopeful the district will be able to find a way to staff it outside of school hours for use by members of the community, such as engineers, inventors, college students and more.

And Garde said a potential cooperative agreement with the Hardesty Center for Fab Lab Tulsa will help the district with training on the equipment.

The Hardesty Center for Fab Lab Tulsa is a non-profit entity that has collaborated with MIT to assemble a diverse collection of state-of-the-art equipment and computers into one workspace as a community center for innovation, and STEM education, according to its website.

The Fab Lab will be in existing space in G Unit at the high school, he said.



Bond to fund space for new medical program

There will also be a new biomedical classroom for a new medical field program.

Coach and science teacher Curt Denton will be starting a new track of classes for students interested in pursuing a medical career, Garde said.

An existing area will be turned into a biomedical classroom for Denton’s courses, which Denton said will help any student interested in a multitude of medical careers be prepared for college.

Denton said the first-year course will feature an imaginary “patient” who has died the class will study in depth.

“We’ll study that patient and determine what caused his or her death, study what they could have changed in their life to extend their longevity, look at hereditary diseases versus those that are self-imposed — that whole realm,” he said.

The biomedical program will be a four-year study program with a capstone project during the senior year.

“I think it will help with their scholarship applications too,” Denton said. “It will also really prepare them for the courses they’ll take in college in any kind of science.”

Denton said he’s been writing grants for equipment and he’ll continue to pursue any financial opportunities he can find for the program.

Reach Wendy Burton at (918) 684-2926 or wburton@muskogeephoenix.com.

Bond issue projects

• District — “Green” buses and fleet vehicles, textbooks, technology, Fab Lab, band uniforms, textbooks.

• Cherokee — Foundation and roof repairs.

• Early Childhood Center — Existing office sits in middle of building. Because of safety concerns will be moved to front entrance, and there will be limited entry only through the front office.

• Creek — A staging area for after-school pickup will be added to relieve the congestion on Country Club Road during pickup times.

• Grant Foreman — New heating and cooling units, replacement of 1970s orange carpeting and a walkway for students being picked up in the Hilltop Avenue pickup area.

• Pershing and Creek — Installation of new sprinkler systems to relieve a freeze issue both schools have; upgrading bathrooms between classrooms that were built in the 1980s; and putting in a new water-heating system.

• Tony Goetz and Whittier — Older sections with transom windows over interior doors no longer meet fire codes, so will be replaced. Whittier to get a new roof over the older section of the school.

• BEST Center — New roof, replacement of old-fashioned boiler system with heat and air system, and moving servers out of basement. A server building will be built near maintenance that is tornado proof and climate controlled.

• Sadler Arts Academy — Library and dance classroom.

• Alice Robertson Junior High — Science and math center.

• Rougher Alternative Academy — Separate building for the school’s Regimented School.

• High School — Biomedical classrooms, new agricultural program building, athletic building for all sports, Fab Lab.