NORMAN — Residents will go to the polls Tuesday to decide on a $126 million bond package to fund improvements throughout the Norman school district.
Although it is the largest bond proposal ever to come before Norman voters, it's a “no-tax-increase” proposition, school officials say, that is necessary to ensure the district keeps up with maintenance, technological advancements and a growing school population.
The bond proposal is divided into two propositions — $122.5 million for some 90 school improvement projects and $3.5 million to meet transportation needs.
If approved, the five-year bond package will not raise residents' taxes because a $110 million bond package that passed in 2009 has been paid off, Superintendent Joe Siano said.
The 2009 package focused on improvements at the city's elementary and middle schools and paid for the construction of one new elementary school.
This newest bond proposal focuses attention on the city's two high schools, Siano said.
Both Norman and Norman North high schools would get about $24 million to renovate and add freshman academies and collegiate centers.
“Both high schools need new classrooms, but rather than just build classrooms, we said ‘let's make some program changes that will give us additional space and better serve our students,'” Siano said.
The freshman academies would help middle school students make the transition into high school more easily. A smooth transition could make the difference between a good high school experience and one that is not so successful, the superintendent said.
The collegiate centers would be devoted to helping seniors get ready for life after high school, whether that means college, a technology school or entering the workforce, Siano said.
About $14.5 million in the bond package would be dedicated to making technological improvements at every school in the system.
“We have a commitment to all kids, no matter what school they are attending, to ensure they have equal access to the tools that will make them successful,” Siano said.
Money from this bond election also would go toward making secure entrances at all schools.
Many of the schools received new entrances with money in the 2009 bond election, but this would mean every school's security issues would be addressed, Siano said.
Maintenance needs such as new roofs, lighting, flooring and athletic fields and equipment would be covered by this bond election, he said.