It’s been nearly three years since Enid voters approved a $92.8 million school bond issue, and Enid Public Schools has been tirelessly putting that funding to work ever since, tackling dozens of projects big and small across the district.
EPS is down to the last $3.7 million of that bond money, facility construction director Michael Shuck said, and there are plans in place for that final sum too.
“It’s crazy, you think of that money ($92. 8 million) and you think, boy there’s a lot there, but then you see the needs of the school district. We’ve got a lot of places that we can use some money,” Shuck said to Enid News and Eagle.
EPS invested funding in every one of its 17 schools. How much money was usually determined by degree of need, Shuck said, the needs of the individual schools, the teachers, parents, students, and the district itself. It’s a lot of voices to take into consideration.
“I’m real open to everybody’s comments. I listen to every custodian, I’ll ask them what they think needs to be done, every teacher, principal, the superintendent, every level,” Shuck said. “I keep my ears open to listen to everything we can possibly hear.”
There’s a sort of rough to-do list that EPS has, he said, every need or want within reason winds up on it. Some of them have been awaiting resolution since well before his time with the district started.
Shuck estimates that $53, 873, 921 of the total 2016 bond issue has been dedicated to construction and renovation work, knocking quite a few items off that list. The rest of the funds have gone toward transportation upgrades, improvements to district IT infrastructure and similar efforts.
But when people think of the bond issue, they think of the combination gymnasium and theater building under construction at Enid High School, he said, and that’s no surprise. It’s big, it’s expensive, and will only grow more impressive as it nears completion. It’s about 40 percent of the way there, he added.
He’s impressed by it himself, he said, “but there’s so much else going on.”
Safety has been a top priority for EPS. Security vestibules at the entrance of each school have become standard. Any site that didn’t have a security vestibule before now does, or soon will. If for whatever reason a security vestibule can’t be installed, some equivalent measure will be.
“We’ll find a way to upgrade security in every one of them,” Shuck said.
New security cameras have also been installed at each school.
McKinley Elementary School will be putting up opaque fencing around certain portions of the site so children can move from one building to another without being seen.
“If a parent doesn’t feel safe about dropping their kids off at school then they just won’t do it,” he said.
Handicap accessibility is another priority of the districts’, Shuck said, many sites were designed at a time when there was little concern for those with physical disabilities.
“Any new construction will meet standards of the Americans with Disabilities Act, but the problem is we have some buildings that are over 100 years old,” he said, adding that the district insures students with physical disabilities are able to attend sites that are accessible.
Emerson Middle School is an older, multi-level structure, and generally not an ADA-friendly layout. To work around this, EPS plans to install stair lifts on stairwells throughout the school.
Steps to increase accessibility are also being taken at Hoover Elementary School and Adams Elementary School.
Shuck expects ADA-accessibility to remain a priority for EPS in the future.
Students at Longfellow Middle School have become very familiar with the sights and sounds of construction, principal Jon Mitchell said, the school has been transforming piece by piece, inside and out, for as long as most of the kids have attended.
Right now the front entrance is closed for renovations; it’s getting a face-lift and a security vestibule. It should look better and be safer when the job is finished, Mitchell said.
“When this is all said and done this is going to be a super secure and safe facility,” he said.
Inside, new flooring and furnishings have been put in the cafeteria.
“The kids are thrilled with the additions and they are doing a great job of keeping it clean and orderly and nice,” Mitchell said.
Elsewhere in the school, workers had been toiling away behind a construction barrier for months, building a brand new library and media center.
Though the project is no secret, it’s all been a big mystery to some students just what was going on behind the barrier.
When it came down recently, the reveal was surprising.
“Since school started there has been a temporary wall, so the sixth graders didn’t even realize there was this area of the building,” Mitchell said. “It was just a whole area that a third of our students had never seen.”
The media center officially opens the first day of school following winter break, and will have a lot for kids to experience.
“It is not the libraries of old. These are much more interactive spaces now,” Mitchell said.
Aside from a selection of books, the center features a large “maker space,” equipped with some of the latest tools and tech, like 3D printers.
Waller Middle School has undergone similar renovations as Longfellow, having established a media center and “maker space” of its own.
Additionally, certain classrooms have been remodeled, the cafeteria has been expanded, and kitchen has been updated.
Emerson Middle School, like the other two, has also established a media and technology center, but was largely funded by outside grants and not bond money.
Much of the work needed at the Elementary schools is already done. Construction of additional classrooms, new playgrounds, and renovated gymnasiums, has been common projects between them.
Taft Elementary has four new classrooms thanks to the bond, and Garfield Elementary has another ten.
Eisenhower and Coolidge both have much improved gyms after renovation.
Coolidge’s gymnasium hadn’t been remodeled since it was first built in the 1970′s, Shuck said, and it showed.
Meanwhile, there is still $4.3 million dollars’ worth of projects to be done at Adams Elementary School, one of the oldest sites in the district.
The Adams Elementary projects were some of the last to be contracted out. Once completed, Adams will have 8 new classrooms, a media center and, of course, a security vestibule.
A mixed bag of other tasks contributes to the $4.3 million figure, like electrical upgrades and new exterior doors.
Earlier, tentative plans also called for the addition of a music room, but the job would have put the Adams project over budget.
“We want to make sure they actually have what they need, not just what they can get by with,” Shuck said. “So we try to get them to dream a little big, but then (the schools) all have to know that we must prioritize.”
The music room was never a promised part of the bond issue, just something to hope for. Even $92.8 million isn’t enough to fulfill every need.
“We’re getting a lot of this taken care of,” Shuck said. “Still, there’s a lot more left there too.”