MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

February 27, 2013

Briggs seeks $1.85M for new elementary

By Cathy Spaulding

— BRIGGS — Elementary teachers say they must escort their students across a county road to get to the Briggs School cafeteria.

They say they also must deal with low water pressure, small classrooms, narrow halls, sloping floors and occasional foul odors in their school building.

Briggs School is proposing a $1.85 million bond issue to build a new 11-classroom elementary school on the same side of the road as the cafeteria. The bond issue also could fund a regulation-sized football field. The election is set for March 5.

If passed, the bond issue would raise taxes by just less than 25 percent, or $24.95 for each $100 a person pays in taxes, said Superintendent Steve Haynes. A taxpayer currently paying $300 in taxes would pay $374.85; a taxpayer paying $1,000 in taxes would pay $1,249.50.

Haynes said this is the first time, to his knowledge, that Briggs School has had a bond issue.

He said the bond issue would help fund a 14,000-square-foot, 11-classroom building for grades one through four.

“The actual cost of the building is $2.4 million, so the bond issue would cover 75 percent,” he said, adding that the rest would come from the building fund. The building would be designed to allow more classrooms in the future.

Briggs School has 450 students in pre-kindergarten through eighth grade, he said.

“Our ultimate goal is to have every student on the same side of the county road,” said Briggs Principal George Ritzhaupt said.

Many of the lower-grade classrooms are in the original school, which is nearly 100 years old, Ritzhaupt said.

First-grade teacher Susie Whalen said her classroom has a “big dip.” As a result, she must put boards under her file cabinets and book shelves to keep them straight.

The old building’s water pressure is so low “two people can’t flush at the same time,” she said.

Teacher Dawn Capps said her classroom is in a modular building, which leaks when it rains.

“Skunks like to get underneath the classroom and have a party,” Whalen said.

The building also has an occasional sewer smell, said second-grade teacher Patti McCaslin, describing the smell as a gaseous odor.

Ritzhaupt said many of the restrooms are too small, and an entrance to a girl’s restroom is too narrow for a wheelchair.

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