By Traci Chapman
As Mustang Public School officials look into a future made more complex by uncertain state funding, one thing is certain – the number of students in lower grade levels now mean a big influx of youth heading to Mustang High School in the future.
And, that includes student drivers.
“With these larger classes in our middle schools and elementary schools now, we are looking at perhaps 4,000 students attending the high school,” Mustang Board of Education Chairman Chad Fulton said. “That includes the 69-square-mile radius of kids coming to the high school campus.”
That could cause future parking problems, something Superintendent Dr. Sean McDaniel and Colin Meeks, MPS project support coordinator, had in mind while researching possible scenarios in dealing with the student parking issues expected to come with larger student populations making their way toward the high school. McDaniel and Meeks presented that information to board members during their regular meeting on Monday.
The parking lot discussion actually began during a May 28 special meeting, during which board members approved the resurface of the existing high school parking lot, as well as asphalting a gravel area, which would add additional spaces. At that time, the idea of a possible parking structure was floated – something McDaniel on Monday said could cost more than $11.9 million, just for construction alone.
“That doesn’t factor in the soft costs, things like security and maintenance,” he said.
While a parking garage might solve restricted space issues around Mustang High School, the superintendent said there are other options, including the demolition of existing buildings like the old gym and FFA building located on the northeast part of the high school campus or lot construction along Snyder or Juniper streets.
“We looked at possible sites on the east side between Snyder and Mustang Road or on the north side between Juniper and the cemetery,” McDaniel said. “We also looked at, possibly, something like the tennis courts in the center of the campus.”
One solution implemented by some districts was the restriction of student drivers to certain grade levels, most commonly juniors and seniors. While that would be an option, the superintendent did not recommend that path for Mustang.
“Our last resort would be to limit drivers,” McDaniel said. “We would have to see 10 to 12 percent growth to even consider that.”
The growth administrators do expect was between 4 and 6 percent, which would add between 332 and 515 students to the high school population per year – and could mean MHS would have as many as 3,215 students enrolled there during the 2018-2019 school year.
“That is our target date – 2018-2019 – that we must have additional parking in place,” McDaniel said.
The just-completed parking re-surface and small addition contract totaled $271,300 – $250,100 for the main lot and $21,300 estimated cost to asphalt the gravel area – and was awarded to low bidder Oklahoma City-based Bishop Paving Co. Per-space prices for two-inch overlay, which Bishop completed in June, cost about $376; new construction with a 4-inch base and overlay would total about $752 per space, according to documents prepared by district staff.
In comparison, parking garage construction prices, per stall, would run about $18,000 each, the report indicated.
One way the district could save money going into the future was in better maintaining parking lots, something that hasn’t been a regular practice in the past, Meeks said.
“That lot was in bad shape; we were lucky to do the 2-inch overlay rather than having to redo the entire lot,” he said. “If we reseal about every two years, we will extend the life of the project.”
Fulton said one thing was clear – parking should be part of the long-range plan being devised by a district committee with a view to proposing a 2017 bond issue to voters. Administrators said earlier this year they wanted to “look beyond the box” in finding ways to continue the district’s forward momentum, while still being realistic in light of state funding challenges that seemingly had no end in sight.
One way that had already been done was in the gravel parking lot upgrade completed in June, McDaniel said. The project was done thanks to Class of 2016 graduate Madison Morrow, who suggested it during a Youth Speak Out a few years ago.
“She (Morrow) talked about the need for parking spaces and this idea as a sophomore, and now as she graduates, it’s going to come to life,” McDaniel said during the May 28 meeting. “I think that’s kind of neat.”