By Traci Chapman
As Mustang Public School’s student population and needs continue to expand, the funding the district needs to meet them is headed in the other direction – and officials say they need to find a way to meet those needs sooner rather than later.
That’s why, after several successful bond elections, officials are discussing another – an $181.28 million proposal, which could be headed to a February 2017 vote.
“We know we have a lot of needs and limited dollars with which to meet those needs, so this is something we want to look at with you moving forward,” Superintendent Dr. Sean McDaniel told Mustang
Board of Education members during their regular monthly meeting on Monday.
If approved by school board members and residents, the issue could fund a slate of construction projects, including:
•Mustang High School additions – eight classrooms and cafeteria for freshmen and a two-story science academy
• Canyon Ridge Intermediate additions – new band/band-gym area
• A new elementary school – pre-K through 4th grade
• A new intermediate school – 5th and 6th grade
• A new middle school – 7th and 8th grade
• New district-wide performing arts center
• District transportation center
• District wide improvements, such as SmartBoards, infrastructure, STEM, science equipment, devices and projectors; textbooks; land purchase for future construction; activity and route buses; HVAC needs; and, possibly, district “reoccurring costs”
While those proposals are listed as “top priorities” by McDaniel and members of the district’s long-range planning committee, several other needs could also be on the table, depending on what board members decide. Those projects are things like parking and renovations at school sites, indoor band/athletic facilities, operations and administrative upgrades and additions, construction of new and refurbishment of tennis courts and athletic additions and upgrades.
“These are things that are still on the table but haven’t been identified as top priorities,” McDaniel said.
Administrators expect to bring final proposals and ballot language to the BOE’s Nov. 14 meeting. If members at that meeting approve the bond issue, it was expected to be set for a Feb. 14 election. In the meantime, officials will work on final project cost and size estimates, with the goal of holding a workshop with board members sometime before the November meeting.
While board members haven’t formally indicated how they stand on the proposal, on Monday they did unanimously approve a construction manager and two architectural firms for 2017 “bond projects.” The board also approved the $148,000 purchase of 2.7 acres in the 500 block of Mustang Road.
Despite a statewide economic downtown, officials say Mustang has been faced with something that’s both a blessing and a challenge – growth.
A lot of it.
“We’re still growing and thriving despite the economic downturn,” Mustang Public Schools Deputy
Superintendent Charles Bradley told Board of Education members Monday. “We are seeing the kind of growth that a lot of districts right now could only wish for.”
That growth has been a primary focus of the district’s long-range planning committee, spearheaded by Bradley. Manned by city and county officials, area business people, parents and district personnel, the group was charged with looking at issues facing Mustang and how best to meet challenges moving forward.
The district’s growth was top of their list, Bradley said.
“We are seeing tremendous growth on the north side of the district – a lot of building, we have new businesses coming in, it’s rather astounding there continues to be so much of it,” the deputy superintendent said.
According to district figures, Mustang has seen 2,000 new students enter its schools since 2011.
Bradley and other committee members said they anticipated at least 1,900 to 2,000 children and youth to enroll within the next three years. And, that number could be on the low side – information compiled by district staff showed a total of 519 new enrollees in 2015, based on 482 approved housing permits in 2014 – for the part of the district inside Oklahoma City limits alone.
Mustang School District encompasses 69 square miles and includes Mustang, as well as parts of both Yukon and Oklahoma City.
“This year in Oklahoma City, there have already been 558 new housing permits,” Bradley said.
Growth is already being seen in swelling class sizes. The 2016 class, set to finish their time in
Mustang on May 20, includes about 660 graduates; of the 13 grade levels from pre-K through 12th, at least eight of them have 800 students or more.
While people moving to Mustang, at least in part for its school district, is a good thing, it’s a strain for a system already facing significant budget cuts due to the state funding crisis, Bradley said. That means there is only one answer, something district voters have been historically good about – another bond issue.
“Some people would look at this and see that it’s a difficult time for us to talk about a bond issue, but we had a similar issue when we passed the 2009 one,” the deputy superintendent said. “Our patrons know we come to them because we need to.”
Those needs could mean a proposed issue topping $100 million, committee members said. Projects floated for consideration include new elementary, intermediate and middle schools – or a combination of grade levels, land purchases, textbooks, safety and security updates, relocation of the district’s transportation hub, a new high school science building, an expansion of the high school technology wing, possible performing arts center and more.
“We are, of course, in the preliminary stages because the school board would need to give us feedback and we would need more discussions and things like that,” committee member Robert Cornelius said.
Although the issue wouldn’t be anticipated until 2017, it was imperative to start talking about the plan now, Bradley said. The proposal set forth by the committee would mean the school board would call for a February 2017 bond election during its November meeting.
“I know it’s a lot to think about, but this is not about one family, one site,” Cornelius said. “This is a really amazing opportunity for this district.”