Board, committee and administration engage public ahead of bond vote

By: 
April Coble
Staff Writer

This week, members of the building bond committee, board of education and Guymon Schools district administration stood ready to discuss proposed plans and answer questions from the public on an upcoming bond vote.

The bond issue, set for vote on Oct. 10 in Guymon, will give the general public a chance to make the decision on how to move forward with the future of Guymon's students, growth and potentially economic development. As those outside looking in await to see what decision is made by voters, those directly involved with the bond proposal are hard at work to bring information to the public.

The proposal, which hopes to expand Prairie Elementary and bring restrooms at Guymon's high school football field up to code, offers a way to get children out of aging buildings that have become expensive to maintain, as well as look toward future student population growth.

In August, building bond committee member Sally Hawkins informed the school board that this bond is just the first of three phases to bring Guymon Public Schools up to current and future needs.

"This bond will be the first critical step to what we see as a multi-phase plan for Guymon Schools," Hawkins said in August.

The expansion, when the bond passes, would create the Prairie Elementary expansion to move children from kindergarten to second grade and their teachers to new classrooms. It was noted during the Talk and Tour that not all students in these grades will be moved, but will create additional classrooms to allow for the rate of growth currently experienced in the district.

In the future, it is hoped to move forward with bond money that could potentially build a new third and fourth grade center to allow for further growth. As the funding is used for building, the district's mandated building fund set aside from regular funding sources can be used to make repairs to existing schools, including renovations to Guymon Central Junior High and Guymon High School.

Board of Education President Mike Ray has repeated in past meetings and presentations that while the Board of Education and bond committee would like to do everything the district needs in one go, it isn't realistic or possible to get a bond of that size to pass.

A majority of the bond will be used for the Prairie expansion, which has been set as the district's priority. The remainder of the funding would go toward the stadium restrooms and concessions, to be built where the home side concessions currently sit.

Salyer Elementary was established in the 1920s, the building itself at 91 years old. Academy C was built a few years after of Salyer, and is 79 years old.

Ray noted earlier this month that the schools in Guymon have become overcrowded. At the elementary level, teachers are working to manage up to 25 students in a single room. At the high school, some classes exceed 30 students outside of band, choir and athletics.

"With the way our population growth has been, we're going to have to… pass a bond issue. We've got to build more schools," Ray stated to retired educators on Sept. 6.

"I can't fix yesterday, but I can fix tomorrow. I'm a big proponent of Guymon schools and what it did for my kids. As a town, there's a point in there you've got to say let's move forward. Let's make it a better place."

The initial bond is $20.4 million over 10 years. Members of the board of education and bond committee are prepared to meet with civic groups and organizations to disseminate information and educate the public. The average increase is estimated at about $15 a month.

Guymon currently rests at the lowest allowable millage rate of .51 - comparatively lower than other districts the same size. In other 5A districts, the rate is two to three times what Guymon has for property taxes. Ray noted that everything could be done in one go with a $150 million bond, but a bond of that size would raise taxes too high for Guymon residents and would not have a chance of passing.

Assistant Superintendent Bret Rider shared some student population numbers with the Guymon Daily Herald to understand the current space needs as well as allowance for future growth. Right now, the district is looking at a population of 240 students in Salyer and Academy C.

"We're looking at about five extra classrooms… for growth," Rider said.

At about 20 students per classroom across 10 classrooms, 200 students will be able to move into the new space, with additional classrooms to give room for more. Rider says they're not trying to overreach actual growth.

"Not when you look how much we've grown in the past 10 years," Rider continued.

Rider pointed out the other K through 2 schools, Homer Long and Northeast. Those two schools are also full, but students could potentially be moved from those elementary schools to Prairie as well. Right now, the plan remains to move Salyer and Academy C students.

"There was a lot of misconception early, a lot of people thought we were trying to move all of the K-2 over there. There's not any way we can do all of (them)," Rider added.

With 240 students, 12 classrooms would be used. 18 classrooms are in the construction proposal. However, the media center and PE facility to be added will also free classroom space in Prairie.

"The one classroom they use for a library, this is going to have a dedicated library, so this will open that up," Rider said.

According to information from Friends of the Guymon Public Schools, there are currently no empty classrooms in the district to allow for future growth. Since the last bond, the district has grown by over 700 students - a 30 percent increase.

Salyer Elementary has seen better days. With changes to technology and education over the years, the building doesn't accommodate everything students need. The musty basement floods when storms pass through Guymon, and the roof has leaks that are repaired often. Ceiling tiles and carpets show wear and water stains that are now hard to avoid. The gymnasium area now has cabinets and divider walls to create a space for children to use computers. Another part of the area is walled off with standing cabinets for storage. More storage is found in one of the hallways.

The small kitchen, which serves breakfast and lunch to these youngest in Guymon, stores its freezers in the same area where the children sit to eat. The rooms are cooled with apparently aging window units - just barely enough to keep a room full of active little bodies cool during the hotter days of the school year. Space comes at a premium, and there isn't any left in the small, aging Salyer Elementary.

In Academy C, space is similarly tight. A boiler system in both elementary schools heat during the winter. If a classroom is near the boiler, it's the classroom teachers and students don't want to be caught in winter clothing. Comments on soft melted, not yet runny crayons stored too near the heat source are made. It is no longer an ideal heating system, but it is what these old schools have. Replacing the climate control with central heat and air is prohibitively expensive, leaving teachers and students to work with what is available.

The summary of the work proposed is the following:
• A secure entry vestibule as part of the renovations to the existing Prairie Elementary
• 18 new classrooms
• New media center (library, computers)
• New P.E. facility
• Safe rooms - these safe rooms will also be regular classrooms
• Separate car and bus pick-up and drop-off
• Renovation of the existing Prairie Elementary
• New restroom facilities to meet code requirements for stadium capacity, as well as accessibility at Memorial Stadium
• New concession facility, presented in the same structure as the restrooms

The regular date for the election is Oct. 10n from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. The deadline to request an absentee ballot is Oct. 4, and can be done through the Texas County Election Board office at 301 N. Main St. in Guymon or call (580)338-7644 for more information. Early voting will take place on Oct. 5 and Oct. 6 from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

More information and images of the proposed construction can be found online at guymontigers.com/school_board/school_bond-2017.

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