Guthrie parents furious after learning of classrooms with no heat

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GUTHRIE, Okla. - Parents in Guthrie are outraged after learning that their children may have to spend the day in the cold.

On Tuesday, a note was sent to parents who have children at Fogarty Elementary saying there will be no heat in the classrooms.

The parents say they were told to send their children to school with warm clothes, blankets and their coats.

On Wednesday, district officials released a statement about the lack of heat.

"Right now, the students are being asked to bring blankets and coats and bundle up, to try to learn," Ron Ice said Wednesday.

Officials say they learned that eight heating units needed to be replaced, including three at Guthrie Junior High and five at Fogarty Elementary.

Officials say one of the units at the junior high in need of repair is in a classroom while the other two are in the auditorium.

The five units at Fogarty Elementary all serviced classrooms.

However, district officials say the heating units in the auditorium, library and computer lab all work, meaning teachers may be able to move their classes into those areas.

"District officials expect the new units to be in place by early next week thanks to an expedited purchasing process based on Superintendent Dr. Mike Simpson declaring an emergency last Friday when the situation became fully apparent. In the interim, classrooms with working heating units will have their doors open and fans will be used to move warmer air to the affected classrooms if alternate spaces are not available. The situation will continue to be monitored by district officials," a statement from the district read.

Some residents say voters are also to blame for the lack of heat in the elementary school.

Guthrie residents haven't approved a school bond proposal in nine years.

Just last week, Guthrie residents voted down a $2.4 million dollar bond proposal that would have provided new heat and air units for one school, and fixed leaky roofs at three others.

"It saddens me for our kids and I'm disappointed," Guthrie Schools Superintendent Mike Simpson said.

Simpson said new heating units will be installed next week, using a building/rainy day fund.

He knows Guthrie residents don't like property tax increases, but says a properly funded educational system would benefit everyone.

"I don't think any parent would tell you that they didn't want better for their own child than what they had," Simpson said.

Charlie Meadows, a treasurer of a PAC that opposed the bond issue, said other residents on a fixed income told him a property tax increase would ruin them.

"Had this passed, it would have been a 580 dollar tax increase (for me)," he said.

Meadows supports a sales tax increase to help schools, as well as private donations.

"If people would have done that over the last couple of times, these issues, the leaky roofs and things like that, the bad heaters, that could have been solved already," he said.

The two sides disagree on how much property taxes would have been raised.

Simpson said he was told it would have raised property taxes 14%.

Meadows and Rep. Jason Murphey (R-Guthrie) both said taxes would have increased 26%.

Simpson said he will approach the city council about a possible sales tax increase because the district's building fund isn't nearly enough to repair their crumbling buildings.


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