Tahlequah Daily Press

Local News

January 11, 2012

Meeting focuses on questions about Hulbert School bond issue

TAHLEQUAH — Hulbert Public Schools held a community meeting Monday to address questions about the Feb. 14 vote on a $1.7 million bond issue.

If the measure is approved, $1.4 million of the General Obligation School Bond money would go toward construction of a new roof for the HPS auditorium; eight new classrooms; and an athletic facility; and an air conditioning system for the high school’s gymnasium.

The district has also applied for a federal grant for development of a new cafeteria, which in conjunction with the bond-issue projects will allow HPS to expand in years to come. This is especially important since the student population continues to grow, with students moving or transferring into the district.

“We’re wanting to make sure we do what’s best for the school down the road,”  HPS Superintendent Dr. David Wilkins told the small number of patrons in attendance. “As it is, all of our facilities will need some attention, but these projects are our most urgent needs.”

Because of the water damage caused by the leaking roof, Wilkins said two classrooms in the auditorium can’t be used, which means the school’s band must hold class in floating locations when a classroom is needed for testing or other uses.

Lack of available space to house a class of students for periodic -academic activities, or even to store materials purchased for classroom use, is another example of why approval of this bond issue is so important to school officials. Constructing a new cafeteria would open up room to help meet this need.

“We’re working with FEMA on a grant for the cafeteria that would free up a lot of space in the high school,” said  Wilkins. “The library would be moved to where the cafeteria is now. That’s what we’re trying to do with these projects, is have it be able to open up to other needs.”

A new elementary building would not only address the increasing class sizes and get students out of the modular buildings, it would also serve as a storm shelter. The structure would be a monolithic dome, which would double as a safe room during dangerous weather.  

Some of the district’s elementary students are currently attending classes in temporary buildings, or prefabricated structures very similar to those found in trailer parks, and are not built to withstand extreme windspeeds or other serious weather.

“For the type of construction we’re looking at for these projects, the buildings would be rated for [severe] storms,” said Wilkins.

The new athletic facility would provide boys’ and girls’ locker rooms; a workout area; and a room for game-film study for coaches and athletes. The air conditioning system for the high school gym would meet comfort needs for activities held during the hotter months of the year, Wilkins said.

“If you’ve ever been in there during the summer, it gets pretty hot,” he said. “Our volleyball kids play in there in August and it can get very warm. We’d like to do more over the summer.”

Though attendance was low at the community meeting, Wilkins said those affected by the bond issue will be receiving information on the proposal and the one-time 17.78 percent property tax increase.

According to the information provided at the Jan. 9 public meeting, HPS doesn’t provide any bond mills for its students. Approval of the bond will raise the district’s millage to 12.00 mills, which is “still well below many neighboring districts, which are in excess of 15 or 20 mills.”

“People will know about it,” Wilkins said. “They will have the information and it will be up to them to decide what they want to do about it. [By approving the bond issue] you’re raising the quality of your school and your town. And you’re investing in your kids. I don’t think you can ever go wrong there, and I believe a parent who has a child in school would agree. At some point, something has to give. We cannot save up enough money to get past the projects needed in this school district.”

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