Poteau School District bond issue vote nearing

In a response to the growing need of the district to continue to provide quality services to students, the Poteau School District will propose a $1.615 million bond issue for a vote on Tuesday, Feb. 11.The bond issue will replace an expiring bond and will create no additional taxes, according to Superintendent Don Sjoberg. The voters will decide whether to support two propositions — $640,000 for transportation and $975,000 for building improvements. Transportation of students on regular routes to and from school would be affected with the bond passage. Eleven of Poteau’s route buses have more 100,000 miles on them and passage of the bond would allow the district to spend $640,000 on eight new buses, Sjoberg said.The building proposition will address a range of district needs from improvement of individual sites to the purchase of land.  The bond would set aside $475,000 for technology and security upgrades. New computers would replace outdated and deteriorating laptops and desktops at each school and videoconferencing equipment would be installed at the high school to allow access to satellite classes. In addition to new hardware, the bond would fund a new computer lab at each of the schools. Sjoberg said the district would renovate a current room at the middle school and high school but because of lack of space, the primary and upper elementary schools would have to use portable classrooms to house the new computer labs. Other improvements in technology have to do with upgrading audio and video capabilities at the Bob Lee Kidd Center and creating more accessibility to technology for students at the high school. Plans are to create a more acoustically beneficial environment for students in the music and drama programs. Installation of acoustic ceiling tiles are part of the plans. A major emphasis will be to upgrade the infrastructure at the entire high school to accommodate a future move to being totally digital. Sjoberg sees a day coming when each student will have his or her own “digital textbook resource," whether it is a laptop, Ipad, tablet or cell phone. Security improvements are another important part of the bond, Sjoberg said. The district would replace the main entrances at all four schools with doors designed to be opened after visual recognition of visitors. Fencing would be installed at the primary school to channel adults to the main entrance and the walkway at the middle school between the main building and the cafeteria building also would be fenced in. A general upgrade to the camera surveillance system at each site would also be completed. The purchase of land is also part of the building proposition. Officials in the school district have discussed the purchase of 25-30 acres for a future addition to the facilities, but the district lacks the funds to make the commitment. According to Sjoberg, the district would budget $500,000 from bond proceeds for such a project.    Growth is a major factor behind the needs of the district. “We have estimated a minimum of 1.5 percent yearly growth over the past decade," said Jeremy Quarry, director of finance for the district.Enrollment since 2008 has jumped from 2,274 to 2,395 this year. The primary school is serving an all-time high of 767 students.