Editor’s Note: This is the first part in a series of articles about projects included in Mid-Del School District’s upcoming $492 million bond proposal. The election is scheduled for Oct. 10.
By Jeff Harrison
Midwest City Beacon
In planning for the upcoming $492 million bond proposal, Mid-Del School leaders weren’t shy about asking for input.
The district hosted numerous meetings with parents, patrons, faculty, and school board members, issued surveys and created a bond steering committee.
When asked for their top priorities, the answers were always the same – safety and security.
Mid-Del leaders listened and included about $10 million in projects to improve safety and security at schools. Those projects include fencing improvements, access control keypads, cameras, lighting, and doors and locks. The district also plans to storm shelters at 10 schools.
The school shootings in Uvalde, Texas sparked a desire to create secure perimeter at every school campus. Superintendent Rick Cobb said they plan to upgrade fencing, additional lighting, and a single-entry point at each school.
“We can’t promise nothing bad will ever happen, we can just do everything possible to be in a good position if something does,” said Rick Cobb, Mid-Del Superintendent.
Cobb said the district is also committed to training staff, creating emergency procedures, and working with local law enforcement.
“If someone does something bad there is no failsafe, but we can do everything possible to keep our classrooms safer,” he said.
All of the safety and security projects would fall under proposition one on the ballot.
New fencing would be added to schools throughout the district. Cobb said those plans look a little different at every school.
Some of the older elementary schools such as Cleveland Bailey, Country Estates, and Ridgecrest have large open spaces. Cobb said he would like to add fencing around the playground areas, but likely not the entire perimeter of the school properties.
“The goal is not to go around every inch of the perimeter, it’s to contain the area,” he said.
Not all schools need a lot of work. Soldier Creek and Midwest City Elementary, which opened in 2014, have adequate fencing. New fencing was also added to Del City Middle School.
Doors and locks
The bond issue includes about $1.4 million to replace doors and locks across the district. Cobb said many of the current doors and handles are not ADA compliant and not secure.
“The old round knob door handles don’t really meet either of those standards,” Cobb said. “We figure that we’d need to replace every door and lock to be safer.”
Mid-Del would also upgrade keypad access points for teachers. The plans would allow teachers to use their card key to enter additional exterior doors at the school.
The safety and security portion also includes additional video cameras, servers for video storage, keycard entry pads, and networking components.
Cobb said he would also like to upgrade intercom systems at many schools . He said new systems have features such as zone mapping that can isolate problems, panic buttons and accessibility for hearing impaired staff and students.
“Internal communication is a huge part of safety,” he said. “In a crisis, we don’t need office staff pushing six buttons to get to one wing of classrooms. We need something that is a lot easier.”
Half of the district’s 20 school campuses have a storm shelter. The bond issue would add storm shelters at the remaining 10 campuses. They include Barnes, Cleveland Bailey, Country Estates, Epperly Heights, Ridgecrest, Tinker, and Townsend which is slated to have a new school building as part of the bond issue, and all three high schools.
The storm shelters would be built as part of larger additions at each school. At the seven elementary schools, the shelters would be part of new music and STEM rooms. At the Midwest City and Del City high schools, storm shelters would be included in performing arts center additions. At Carl Albert High School, the storm shelter will be part of a classroom addition.
The district added five storm shelters in the 2017 bond issue.
“It’s exciting to think that we’re at a point where we can give our community a chance to vote on finishing that part of the job,” Cobb said.
A recent tornado in Shawnee underlined the importance of storm shelters. The storms damaged much of the city including Shawnee High School.
“One of the most telling images from the Shawnee tornado in April was the destroyed gym and the storm shelter is unscathed standing next to it,” Cobb said.
If the bond proposal is approved by voters on Oct. 10, Cobb said the district would receive its first portion of the funds (about $7 million) in December. That first portion would be used for some safety and security projects and roofing work. A large portion of the funds would be available in July.
“That would give us from October until early spring to dig deep into project design,” he said.