Public forum slated on Poteau school bond

School Facilities Improvement Team.
News Reporter

A community forum over the upcoming Poteau school bond issue will be hosted at 6 p.m. Aug. 21 in the Bob Lee Kidd Civic Center by the Facilities Improvement Team.

Written questions will be submitted from attendees at the start of the forum.

District voters will go to the polls Aug. 28 to vote on the $14.6 million bond, which includes:

• $8,665 million for a new seventh- and eighth-grade center.

• $5,735 million for a new two-story high school classroom building.

• $200,000 to perform security improvements districtwide.

The Poteau Board of Education has cited overcrowding as a major issue contending to the need for new facilities.

“We now have nearly 50 additional students in the halls between classes at the middle school,” Superintendent Don Sjoberg said. “Districtwide, we are headed to record enrollments. The enrollment numbers we have seen in the elementary and primary schools in previous years are now affecting the middle school and will affect the high school within three years.”

The district attempted a bond vote in April, which failed to pass voters. It also attempted a larger proposal last September, which included these projects in addition to performing arts renovations to the Civic Center and the construction of an event center.

“We can’t keep putting more students in the same spaces without expecting more behavior and safety problems,” Sjoberg said. “Some of our classes have up to 29 students in them because we are using all available rooms and that in itself is not acceptable if we want to provide quality instruction.”

The bond would initiate a 5.5 percent increase in property taxes, or an amount equivalent to an additional $55 for every $1,000 paid in tax last year, or $4.58 per month, the school said.

The district said it has expanded its Facilities Improvement Team to include more community members who represent varying points of view. The number increased from 15 in 2017 to 28 in 2018.
Sjoberg said the team has agreed on key points that have been part of past bond votes.

“They have agreed that overcrowding needs to be addressed and that security needs to be improved at all district sites,” he said.

“The future of the facilities for our students is in the hands of voters who are willing to make a financial sacrifice to provide classrooms and security for our growing number of students. For most people, the monthly increases amount to less than the cost of one or two meals at a fast food restaurant.”