MIAMI, Okla. — Local school officials are proposing a $22.7 million bond issue that would primarily pay for a shift away from the traditional neighborhood-school approach for elementary pupils to a safe-room equipped, grade-school center into which Nichols Elementary School would be transformed.
The proposal also calls for construction of a multipurpose area, which would include a storm shelter, at Will Rogers Middle School, and for additions and safety upgrades at the high school.
In addition to the efficiency and safety aspects inherent in the plan, school officials say the elementary consolidation would lend itself to teacher collaboration, something that has long been an objective in the local system.
Voters will decide the proposal in a March 3 election. The construction projects, other upgrades and debt would cost property owners a 22.71 percent increase in the tax rate, according to district compilations.
The district has proposed $9.9 million of the bond money to build a 60,000-square-foot, 40-classroom addition to Nichols Elementary, located at 504 14th St. N.W., that would house all of the district’s pre-kindergarten through second-grade pupils.
An additional $2.8 million would be used to remodel the existing Nichols to create an area that would serve pupils in third through fifth grades. Both arms, or sections, of Nichols would share a cafeteria that would double as a tornado safe room with a capacity for 1,500 pupils, according to the plan.
Superintendent Loretta Robinson, in a recent presentation to the Miami City Council, said that consolidating the elementary pupils in one location would eliminate many of the problems the district is facing with aging elementary buildings that need “major improvements” while at the same time enhancing teachers’ opportunities to work together to better serve the students.
“This journey started four years ago when we were looking at our facilities, which are very aged, and we knew we had to deal with new disability guidelines, too, with either extensive remodeling or a new site,” Robinson said in the program. “But it is also about eliminating the outdated concept of the neighborhood school. It is inefficient, and it stifles teacher collaboration.”
The four other neighborhood schools, which now house kindergarten through fifth grades, would be closed. They are Rockdale Elementary, 2116 Rockdale Blvd.; Roosevelt Elementary, 129 G St. N.E.; Washington Elementary, 1930 B St. N.E.; and Wilson Elementary, 308 G St. N.W.
“Our goal is to convert a newer school, like Roosevelt, into an education service center for the board, administration and the district’s technology services,” said Mark Folks, president of the Board of Education, after the presentation of the City Council. “But for the other buildings, we do not want to leave them vacant. If they can’t be sold, they would have to be removed.”
The plan calls for $2.39 million in projects at Will Rogers Middle School that would add an 8,500-square-foot multipurpose area that could double as a tornado shelter with a capacity for 700 people. New lockers and a secure entrance point also are part of the plan at Will Rogers.
Miami High School also would see $1.7 million in additions and upgrades, including new roofing, a secure entrance point and a new walkway connecting the high school to the Miami Activity Center, in addition to improvements to the HVAC system for the building.
“We do have secure entrances at all schools, where people have to be buzzed in to enter the school, but most are at a distance from the school’s main office where they could be in contact with students before they reach the office,” Folks said when asked for elaboration. “At the high school, you have students that have to leave the main building to get to some classrooms. With the bond proposal, we would be able to provide a secure, covered walkway that would not allow students in or out of the building just to get to class.
“The secure entry points would be one location at each school that would be the entryway for people coming and going to the school,” Folks said.
The high school now is the only district building that has a storm shelter, and Folks, again in response to a Globe question, said whether the general public would have access to all of the school safe rooms under the plan has yet to be decided.
“We are currently working on the feasibility of making (the safe rooms) publicly available during non-school hours,” Folks said. “We are looking at it with the city and emergency management to see what we would need in place to make it happen. It is a goal, but we don’t want to say that it will happen and then not have it be done.”
The remaining $5.91 million of the bond issue is budgeted for construction management and architectural fees, along with the bond repayment fees.
Homeowners in the Miami district now pay a tax rate of $62.01 per $1,000 of assessed valuation in annual school taxes. That mill increase would go up by $18.41 to $80.42 until 2027 if the proposal is approved by voters.
For the owner of a home with a market value of $100,000, for example, the annual tax bill would increase by $209.88 from $706.91 to $916.79 in the first year.
The school district now holds $1.7 million in bond debt. The last bond issue authorized by voters was in 2007 for $4.19 million that was used for a multipurpose building for the high school.
If voters pass the proposed bond issue, construction could possibly begin in 2016 with completion of the projects in 2017.
The bond issue will require a three-fifths, or 60 percent, majority for approval. Polling places will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. in the district on Tuesday, March 3.