Muskogee Public Schools administrators will return on Monday to their downtown offices, which were branded with a new name: MPS Education Service Center.
MPS spent the past year renovating the former Board of Education Service and Technology Center at 201 W. Broadway. Administrators and staff relocated to the former Harris-Jobe Elementary School on North Country Club Road while the work was in progress.
The new offices will open at 8 a.m. Monday to the public.
“What we have to offer is renovated space ... that will be brought into the 21st century,” MPS Chief Administrative Officer Lance Crawley said, noting the facility is furnished with new furniture and technology.
A reception desk in the front lobby replaces an escalator and stairs, which were removed during the remodeling project.
“There will be no confusion when they walk into the front door,” Crawley said. “It will be very clear: Here’s where I go, here’s where I stop.”
Crawley said the lobby is “a completely secure access point, so all the doors out of the reception area are secure.”
He said about 35 school employees will return downtown.
“People ask, ‘Why did you remodel?’” Crawley said before answering. “Because we wanted to stay downtown — that was really important, it was a conscious choice.”
The remodeled room where the Muskogee Board of Education convenes now features a huge digital video screen.
“When you’re at the board meetings, the agendas — as we go through the items —will be up there,” Crawley said. “And videos.”
Crawley said the board room also can be used as a meeting space for other activities.
“It will not be just a once-a-month facility,” he said. “We’ll have leadership meetings here, professional development here.”
Offices for main administrators, like Chief Financial Officer John Little, who previously officed on the ground floor, are now upstairs. The upstairs area features a new waiting area.
Superintendent Dr. Jarod Mendenhall said he wants people “to feel like they’re being served.”
The building originally housed a bank. Crawley said the old vault will be used for storage and as a safe room during threatening weather.
Finishing touches are still being made to the enrollment center, which is adjacent to ESC.
Part of the renovation was funded by an $889,717 lease-purchase agreement approved in 2018 by the school board. The agreement authorized the district to obtain a loan from Government Capital Corp., using the administration building as collateral, which would be repaid with interest.
Crawley said the remainder of funding for the $1.73 million project came from the district’s building fund. Project bids came in at nearly twice the estimated costs, he said, due to the cost of shoring up the two-story structure and removing the escalator and the age of the structure.