Tulsa School Bond Vote for Improvements Set for November 9th

Thursday, October 7th 1999, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

Voters will decide November 9th whether to approve $109,000,000 in improvements for Tulsa Public Schools. Supporters kick off a vote-yes campaign Saturday. The News on Six went to several schools Thursday to see what improvements are needed.

From the outside, Mark Twain Elementary appears to be tolerating old age well.
Inside, however, low-hanging asbestos covered pipes pose health and safety hazards. An exposed sewage pipe is located in rooms used for testing and speech therapy. Cracks and slanting of floors show how the building is settling after 75 years. “We're asking teachers, professionals and students to just be the worst accommodations possible to learn,” said Principal Dr. Diane Hensley.

Tulsa Public Schools' bond proposal calls for a new Mark Twain School and a new Booker T Washington High. An architectural study identified the schools as the two worst in the district. The projects are included in the $72,000,000 facilities portion of the bond. School officials say Tulsa's public schools, like others nationwide, are deteriorating. "When you're an urban school district like we are, you have a lot of older schools,” said bond project director Robert LaBass. “Our average age is still 40-something years old. When we're that old, and we haven't had a capital improvement bond for 20-something years, there's a lot of repairs that need to be done.”

Among them, replacement of roofs at 24 sites, including Whitney Middle School, where water has damaged ceilings and floors. Air conditioning will be replaced at 24 schools, with removal of all window units now in use. The package calls for renovation of six sites, including Whitney. And air-conditioning for all secondary school gyms.
Webster High would get a new field house if the bond passes. Limited seating causes excessive crowding at athletic events. School officials say the gym completed in 1938 poses other disadvantages. "Number one, we're not taking care of our female athletes as far as Title 9,” said Webster principal Don Undernehr. “Our locker room facilities were not designed for female athletes. Back in 1938, that was non-existent.”

The bond list also includes replacement of curtains and stage rigging at all secondary schools and a solution for cafeteria crowding at Memorial High. LaBass hopes citizens look beyond whether improvements are in their part of town. "Put yourself if your children were going there,” he said. “And that's what you've got to do, because your school is going to be on the list. That's why we have a 20-year plan. If your kids are going through a school, it's going to be covered one of these days.” Meanwhile, supporters say, these problems won't go away, unless voters turn out November 9th to solve them.

Bonds would also pay for libraries, learning materials, technology and buses.
The bond package won't raise taxes if it's passed. Bond supporters say they're unaware of any organized opposition to the plan.