(Stillwater, Oklahoma) On Tuesday, November 8, the Stillwater Board of Education voted unanimously to call a February 2023 election to adopt a $195,000,000 bond issue.
The 2023 Bond Issue will consist of two propositions. Proposition I is for $190,000,000 to be used to support the bulk of a number of projects the district hopes to implement if the issue passes, while Proposition II calls for $5,000,000 to provide funds for transportation equipment.
“School districts need bond issues, not only for expansion and improvements, but to operate day to day,” says Superintendent Uwe Gordon. “Bond 2023 is a pivotal part of the long range vision for SPS and the success of our students.”
Key projects planned include a new high school to be constructed north of Pioneer Stadium, expansions to and improvements of athletic facilities, maintenance at all sites, academic technology & materials, extracurricular equipment, uniforms, musical instruments, buses, and vehicles.
“The existing Stillwater High School was built in 1960,” says Gordon. “The round top gym is even older, and when you walk in there, it’s like you’ve stepped back to the 50s, which is neat in a certain way, but our kids deserve new, modern spaces in which to learn and grow.”
Plans call for an all-new, two-story high school to be built in the current location of Cimarron Plaza. SPS already owns that property, and businesses located there have been kept informed that SPS intends to use the space in the near future. Construction is expected to begin in the summer of 2023.
“One of the first things I like to remind everyone is that this bond issue will not raise your taxes,” says Gordon. “While this is the largest bond issue ever proposed in Stillwater, a commitment to keeping taxes at their current levels has been a driving force behind the planning of this bond.”
“If we’d gone with the typical six year cycle, we’d have had to choose to either raise taxes or, alternatively, build part of a high school, wait for the next bond cycle, hope it passes, and then wait for more construction,” says the superintendent. “The ten year nature of this bond proposal means we’ll be able to acquire the money we need for the new high school sooner and have those doors open, fingers crossed, in the fall of 2026, with no change to the community’s tax rate.”
Specifics of exactly what the high school will look like or how it will be laid out are still pending. “Inflation, rising construction costs, and changing interest rates means exactly what we can get with these funds changes on a daily basis,” says Gordon. “We’ve been working with our designer, 505 Architects, throughout this process, and as we get closer to the bond vote, we’ll really start finalizing those plans and sharing them with the community on a much more detailed level.”
If construction delays occur, Gordon says it wouldn’t be ideal, but also not overly disruptive. “If we can’t welcome children to the new high school when we hope to, the fact that we still have the current SHS, means we have some flexibility on when things happen.”
Also included in the bond are plans to renovate or replace portions of athletic facilities, including gym spaces and locker rooms that date as far back as the 1960s. The district will also purchase four competitive lanes at a soon to be constructed YMCA facility. New locker room spaces and a weight room facility will be added on to the north side of existing structures and some rearrangement of space will occur.
“After some space improvements in both locations, Cheer and pom will move to the existing weight room, and Soccer, Cross Country, and Track will take over the existing cheer gym,” says Gordon. “All of our sports have the potential to benefit from this bond issue.” Construction and renovation of the Athletic spaces is planned to occur from spring of 2027 through summer of 2028.
While this particular bond issue doesn’t include specific plans for capital improvements at sites other than the high school, many district schools have seen recent upgrades, says Gordon. Sangre Ridge, the middle school, and SJHS all received renovations from the 2017 bond, which also included an all new Westwood Elementary that was completed in the fall of 2019. “We’ll also be spending some other, non-bond funds to address specific needs at schools,” he says. “For instance, the open concept classrooms at Sangre Ridge will be enclosed this summer. I’m really excited about that change and the increased safety it will bring.”
As with many school bond issues, other projects are planned beyond facility improvements. “Maintenance isn’t as glamorous or flashy as a new building,” says Gordon, “but it’s necessary to keep those facilities operational and suitable as the spaces Stillwater’s children deserve. With funding, we’ll be able to extend the operational life of spaces like our wonderful Performing Arts Center, and address HVAC needs, roofs, and exterior and parking lot lighting.” Technology, including a one-to-one internet device plan for grades eight through twelve, textbooks, and instruments and uniforms for the performing arts are also included.
“I’m happy with the plan we have, though I know it will change some as we move through the next ten years. This bond has the potential to really change things in Stillwater. I can’t tell you how to vote,” says Gordon, “but I can ask that you do vote in February.”
Information about the bond, including progress updates, will be available at www.stillwaterschools.com/bond.