Harrah school bond issue inspires debate

The $44.6 million bond election Sept. 10 will be Harrah Public Schools' second try this year at getting a bond issue approved. A $36 million bond election failed in February, just missing the necessary 60 percent threshold for passage.
by Matt Patterson Modified: September 3, 2013 at 7:00 pm •  Published: September 3, 2013
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School bond elections often inspire spirited debate, and that is the case in Harrah as residents prepare to vote on a proposal that is the largest in the district's history.

The $44.6 million bond election Sept. 10 will be Harrah Public Schools' second try this year at getting a bond issue approved. A $36 million bond election failed in February, just missing the necessary 60 percent threshold for passage.

The new bond would impact all of Harrah's campuses, providing money for remodeling, classroom additions and technology upgrades. The largest item is an $8.2 million overhaul of the district's athletic facilities, including a new 2,800 seat football stadium complete with locker rooms and a newly constructed multisport fieldhouse.

Other proposals include a $5.1 million addition to the high school that would include eight new classrooms, new administrative offices and renovation of the science department.

Ten new classrooms would be added in a $4.3 million project at the junior high school, along with smaller projects under $3 million at each of the three elementary schools. Storm shelters are part of the projects at all schools. Also included is $14 million in bond fees and interest through 2029.

Superintendent Paul Blessington has been perhaps the most vocal proponent of the bond issue. Hired earlier this year after serving as superintendent at Luther Public Schools, Blessington said he sees the need for improvements.

“Our heating and air conditioning systems are a big issue and roofs are a big issue,” Blessington said. “We have a lot of outdated buildings that may have been the Taj Mahal in the 1980s but they look like something out of a time capsule now. We need to be put on the same playing field as everyone else. It's not a cheap fix.”

But some residents disagree with the way the district constructed the bond issue. Harrah resident Randy Goodman said the bond is a mixed bag of Band-aids and misplaced priorities.

“I think it's a poorly planned bond issue, and that has nothing to do with an increase in property taxes if it passes,” Goodman said. “They have said they want to compete with other districts but this is a Band-aid approach and one that could make it impossible to have another large bond for the next 10 or 15 years if it passes.”

Goodman would like to see a new high school built at a different location and a higher priority placed on academics and fine arts. He also said the district hasn't done a drainage study at the location of the proposed athletic facility.

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by Matt Patterson
Reporter
Matt Patterson has been with The Oklahoman since 2006. Prior to joining the news staff in 2010, Patterson worked in The Oklahoman's sports department for five years. He previously worked at The Lawton Constitution and The Edmond Sun....
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