Oklahoma Bond Issue Would Upgrade Tech in Classrooms

A $110 million bond issue facing voters in Muskogee, Okla., this week includes $5 million to improve technology in all of the area district’s school buildings, as well as $12 million to remodel Muskogee High School.

by Cathy Spaulding, Muskogee Phoenix / October 2, 2019

(TNS) — Technology moves fast in school classrooms, and Muskogee, Okla., schools must catch up, officials say.

"The days of the SmartBoard are over," said Muskogee Public Schools Chief Operating Officer Eric Wells, referring to digital interactive whiteboards that were prevalent five to 10 years ago.

A $110 million bond issue facing MPS voters Tuesday includes $5 million to improve technology in all school buildings.

It also includes $12 million to remodel Muskogee High School to include larger band and choir rooms, a new front entrance and College and Career Services offices.

Wells said the classroom SmartBoards cost a lot to maintain.

"Districts now call for large, flat-panel TVs that are touchscreen," he said. "Even though a TV has a higher acquisition cost by about 25 percent, ongoing maintenance cost is a fraction of a SmartBoard."

The district also needs to update teachers' laptop computers.

"We have done a really great job with our one-on-one, each student having a laptop," he said. "But our teachers need laptops as well; theirs are old and dated."

Wells said a "robust technology infrastructure" funded by the 2013 bond issue will be due for replacement in about five years.

"In Muskogee, we've prided ourselves in being cutting edge in technology," he said. "We definitely want to maintain that. We are one of only schools in the state to have a full one-to-one (laptop or tablet) from kindergarten on up."

At the high school, a "grand hallway" would run from the media center to the auditorium and feature a new auditorium lobby.

MPS Superintendent Dr. Jarod Mendenhall said the hall would improve security by linking different buildings. One building, called the B Unit, would be torn down to accommodate the hall.

Larger band and choir spaces would be built between C Unit and the auditorium, Mendenhall said.

Muskogee Public Schools Supervisor of Music Jerry Huffer said the band room is only one-fourth the size it needs to be.

"We have one small band room, no instrument storage room, no uniform room, no color guard room, no equipment room," Huffer said. "We don't have a room big enough to put our marching band in anymore."

He said the marching band must "divide up into different areas" when they practice music indoors.

"We store stuff on the back of the stage," he said. "When Penny (McGill) has the school musical, we have to stick it all in hallways."

Huffer said the fine arts auditorium also needs help.

"Nothing works right in the auditorium, terrible sound system, terrible lighting," he said. "We need prop storage."

Mendenhall said sound and lighting would be upgraded.

A College and Career Center would include a full-time counselor and offices for representative from area institutions, such as Connors State College and Indian Capital Technology Center, Mendenhall said.

The center would be the key to proposed program, "Rougher Pathway to Success," in which each student works on an individualized post-high school plan, Mendenhall said.

Although it is not mentioned in bond promotional material, the school also needs heating and air conditioning updates, Wells said.

He said old cooler controls deep within one building "require hand manipulation every single day to make the building cool again."

"Sometimes twice a day, they come down here and manually turn valves to reset chillers because they fail to operate," Wells said. "They constantly require fine-tuning on a day-to-day basis."

He said many chillers are original to the buildings "and they just fail every single night."

The boilers and chillers also must react to Oklahoma's swift weather changes, Wells said.

"If we receive a small cold front tonight, and it gets hot again on Thursday, we would not fire up the boilers, because once you turn them on, you don't go back until spring," he said.

©2019 the Muskogee Phoenix (Muskogee, Okla.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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