An $8.9 million bond issue that would have built a new middle school in Rush Springs failed by just two votes Tuesday night.
District officials had hoped to build a new school to replace the 60-year-old building that now houses Rush Springs Middle School. Four classrooms, a hallway and restrooms in the central part of the building would have been be built as safe rooms.
Rush Springs Superintendent Mike Zurline said he planned to meet with the school board and bond committee to discuss what steps to take next.
The bond issue was a scaled-down version of a previous proposal that failed by 75 votes in March. Zurline said seeing the new measure fail by just a pair of votes was both encouraging and discouraging at the same time.
“(It’s) a little of both,” he said.
Zurline said the safe rooms would have been big enough to accommodate 1,290 people. That’s large enough to provide shelter for faculty, staff and students, as well as members of the community who need to take shelter during storms.
Built in 1956, the current middle school is outdated and too small to meet the district’s needs, Zurline said. The new school would have included larger classrooms and a cafeteria large enough to serve 300 students at a time.
In Garvin County, voters in the Elmore City-Pernell school district approved a $2.275 million bond issue to build a new middle school, including a safe room that doubles as the school’s band room.
District officials have said the safe room will be big enough to accommodate 150 people. About 120 students are enrolled at the middle school. During storms, those students now go to a safe room at the district’s high school, which also serves as a public storm shelter.
Elmore City-Pernell Superintendent Donny Darrow said he appreciates the community’s support, and thanked those who helped the measure pass. Besides creating another safe room, the bond issue will put sixth, seventh and eighth grades in a single school by themselves, Darrow said.
“We’re really excited for the kids, because that’s who’s going to benefit from this,” Darrow said.
A pair of bond proposals totaling $120 million in the Putnam City School District were leading with some precincts still out. The bond issues would provide $119 million for a new Capps Middle School, storm shelters in 10 schools and several other items district officials say are badly needed.
A separate $1 million transportation bond issue would go to buy school buses.
School safe rooms have been the subject of much political wrangling since an EF5 tornado tore through Moore on May 20, 2013, leveling Briarwood and Plaza Towers elementary schools.
A bill in the Oklahoma Legislature this year called for a statewide vote on allowing school districts, with local voter approval, to increase their bonding authority once to build tornado shelters. The bill was approved by the House of Representatives, but was defeated in the Senate.
Gov. Mary Fallin had lent her support to the bill, lobbying lawmakers for its passage. Before the bill passed out of the House, Fallin issued a strongly worded news release, saying the proposal was being subjected to a “politically motivated and intentionally misleading smear campaign.”