Oklahoma Watches and Warnings

OKC School Board rejects gym bid so they can start over and add a shelter

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OKLAHOMA CITY — The Oklahoma City Public School Board, unanimously, rejected the Nichols Hill Elementary School gym construction bid tonight which did not include a storm shelter.

The Board instructed the architect to start over and add a gym with a storm shelter in the design.

“The Oklahoma City School Board is to be commended for taking a tough stance tonight for school children’s safety,” said Rep. Joe Dorman (D-Rush Springs), a member of the Take Shelter Oklahoma Steering Committee. “By rejecting the non-shelter gym at Nichols Hills Elementary School and instead directing the plans be redrawn to make the gym a storm shelter shows the level of concern local school leaders have regarding kids safety.”

Board members insisted that this is not a one-time decision.

“They made it clear that Nichols Hills is the start and that the remaining 25 gyms funded from a 2007 bond issue will all integrate storm shelters into the gym construction,” Dorman continued.

“The Take Shelter Oklahoma People’s Petition is designed to help Oklahoma City Public Schools and other school districts make the decision to build storm shelters now,” Dorman said referring to the provision in the petition which allows schools to start construction on storm shelters now and apply for reimbursement once the bond measure passes as long as the funds used by the local level were approved after July, 2007 and construction began after May 1, 2013.

Board members further committed that Nichols Hills and the remaining 25 gyms were not the only schools that needed storm shelters.

Board members insisted that all schools in the district must provide an equal level of protection for all students by constructing storm shelters.

Concerns were raised that the dollars did not currently exist to build storm shelters at facilities beyond Nichols Hills and the other remaining 25 gyms.

“The funding concerns raised by Board members tonight is why it is absolutely imperative that the Take Shelter Oklahoma petition is successful,” Dorman said. “Without a state bond providing financial assistance to the local school boards, Oklahoma City Public Schools and the other school districts across the state will not be able to fund the storm shelters necessary to protect our school children."

The People’s Petition would ask voters to approve the issuance of a $500 million bond to fund the construction of school storm shelters.

The debt would be serviced by the revenue collected from the current franchise tax.

This funding mechanism would allow school districts the opportunity to build school storm shelters without raising any new or existing taxes and without cutting any current Oklahoma program spending.

The plan also provides for 100 percent local control since the local school boards would make all decisions regarding the school storm shelters.

Take Shelter Oklahoma must obtain 160,000 signatures by mid-December to put the matter on the ballot for the People to decide.

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