The Edmond Sun

June 28, 2013

Tornado shelters may be on 2014 school bond issue

Patty Miller
The Edmond Sun

EDMOND — An Edmond Public School district official said this week that it could cost $30 million to add storm shelters to the six elementary schools and the high school that have none in the district.

In light of the May 20 tornadoes and the destruction it brought to Moore and specifically to two elementary schools, Edmond Board of Education members discussed tornado preparedness during their Annual Summer Planning Session June 25.

“I think we need to be proactive concerning sheltering our children,” said Kathleen Duncan, board member.

Board members asked Assistant Superintendent of District Operations Bret Towne to look at the possibility of putting shelters on the next bond issue and work out a plan that will put shelters in the schools that do not have them over the years of the bond issue.

Towne told board members that six elementary schools have no tornado shelter including: Angie Debo, Clegern, Ida Freeman, John Ross, Orvis Risner, Russell Dougherty and Sunset. The other elementary schools either have safe rooms or areas where the building is partially underground or an area with 8-inch concrete walls for the students to shelter in.

Cheyenne Middle School can shelter 900 students in eight safe rooms and the other four middle schools have buildings with areas built underground or partially underground or with 8-inch tilt-up concrete walls. Summit can shelter 1,100 students and Central can shelter 400 students safely.

Memorial High School does not have a tornado shelter. North has underground locker rooms and hallway in the competitive gymnasium that can shelter 2,000 students and Santa Fe has 16 safe rooms that can shelter 2,000 students.

“If we were to put a bond for shelters of that amount to a vote of the people right now, voters would see a 25 percent increase in ad valorem taxes,” Towne said, “and we are not willing to do that.”

The board is considering shelters as one of the bond items in 2014.

“Every school will be different as to shelter needs,” Towne said. “There is no cookie cutter for this. All shelters being built will be done so with a dual purpose.”

Towne said they will look at attaching it to the next bond issue, which will be no earlier than August 2014 and will possibly be a series bond of three years.

“We plan to have no ad valorem tax increase,” Towne said. “Each bond issue we present we have to make some assumptions and projections at the time to keep the mills between 24 and 25 mills. It very difficult to be exact.”

Towne said when you look at the size of the district’s growth north and east of Edmond and in Logan County, the district is seeing that reflected in the school population growth.  

“The actual effects on taxes are not known until we get valuations and tax rates,” Towne said, “but we have been very conservative on our growth projections. At this time we are estimating 2 percent interest on our next bond issue. We hope we are lower than our projections.”

Bonds are being sold at this time from a bond issue passed in February.

Bonds will be sold Monday to pay construction costs of high school improvements and some small remodeling, Towne said. The $14.4 million in bonds to be sold includes: $1.3 million for technology, $750,000 HVAC, $2.5 million for Orvis Risner renovation, $7.2 million split between Memorial, North and Santa Fe improvements and remodeling, $850,000 for remodeling the custodial building, $750,000 for administration center improvements and $500,000 to start beginning playground improvements to make them federally compliant for handicap accessibility.