The Deer Creek Board of Education unanimously approved a bond referendum for the Aug. 23 ballot in the amount of $175 million.
Deer Creek School District’s enrollment is nearing 5,800 students and with the growth comes the need for new classrooms.
“The 2015-16 Oct. 1 student enrollment count was 5,626,” said Superintendent Ranet Tippens. “At this time Deer Creek’s enrollment is nearing 5,800. If the next few weeks repeat history, Deer Creek will end with an October enrollment count close to 5,900 for the 2016-2017 school year.”
Over the last 12 years Deer Creek has had an average growth of 300 new students per year, said Lenis DeRieux, district spokesperson.
Tippens said the issue of rapid growth in the school district has been a pressing issue for a number of years.
“It was clear Deer Creek was rapidly moving from a 4A school to our present size of 6A,” Tippens said. “The decision was made to remain one high school with the Freshmen Academy and High School Annex additions, to build a single new middle school and a new elementary.”
Deer Creek Middle School was opened four years ago and it is now at capacity due to continued rapid student growth, Tippens said.
Spring Creek Elementary opened one year later. After three years, Spring Creek Elementary School too has reached capacity due to hundreds of new homes and three apartment complexes built in the southwest part of the district.
With the last bond issue passed in 2009, Deer Creek addressed athletic and arts facilities needed for performance of a Class 6A school.
“Our students have already won many championships and competitions and have given college level performances in the PAAC. The rapid growth of the band program has them busting at the seams and in need of a much larger room,” Tippens added.
The 2016 additions of a larger band room, renovation of the current band room for the choir program and addition of the drama room will complete the original plan for the PAAC for those programs.
Additional space will be added for the wrestling, pom and cheer programs.
“These rooms will also be used for testing, a place to hold large and medium group professional development, and will also be built as safe rooms giving high school students a structure built to FEMA standards to safely ride out a storm,” Tippens said.
The classroom wing additions at Prairie Vale Elementary and Deer Creek Elementary will be built to FEMA standards resulting in a place of safety at each of the Deer Creek school sites, Tippens added.
“These additions not only give relief to our immediate needs for enrollment, they complete the district’s goal of a safe room area at every school site,” Tippens said.
The lobby door renovations at the four older elementary schools will add safety features separating those entering the buildings from immediate contact with students.
The total of the 40th bond package for the school district is in the amount of $175,045,000.
“By law, transportation bonds and building bonds have to be voted on by separate questions. Proposition No. 1 is for $169,395,000 and addresses all of the building, equipment and renovation projects. Proposition No. 2 is the transportation bond in the amount of $5,650,000,” Tippens said.
The last bond passed in 2009 was a 10-12 year series bond. Bonds are sold as bonding capacity allows. An additional $5 million of projects were approved in 2013 without extending the years needed to pay off the bonds, Tippens said.
The 2016 bond issue is scheduled for payment over a 12-year period.
“As the ad valorem base of the district grows from the construction of more homes and business, we are able to issue more bonds to fulfill the needs of the district,” Tippens said.
Deer Creek has a reputation of a school district that provides a strong academic background.
“Deer Creek is known for our academic model that has proven results of strong academic performance of our students. Deer Creek is one of only two schools in the nation/world certified Districtwide Level 2 in the Marzano High Reliability process modeled after practices business and military employ to ensure that they are highly reliable organizations,” Tippens said. “It involves critical examination by all stakeholders in the areas of safety, teacher preparation, a guaranteed and viable curriculum, standards-based reporting and flexible and blended learning tailored to the individual needs of students.”
Tippens added that district-wide seven of the school sites are certified at levels 3 and 4 with standards based reporting to parents correlated to Oklahoma’s new state standards.
“Dr. Phil Warrick and Dr. Robert Marzano, some of the world’s leading researchers in education, work closely with Deer Creek administrators and teachers on the High Reliability growth model with proven results. A product of the dedication and performance of our staff and students is the rapid growth of our district,” Tippens said.
The bond issue will be paid for by millage and ad valorem taxes.
The last bond sold for approximately 1.25 percent interest, and the bond before that sold for 1.15 percent.
The 2009 bond election is scheduled to be paid off in 2022.
Tippens said with the rapid growth of building in the district, the maximum increase in the tax base will be less than one percent.
“We encourage our patrons to take out their last tax bill. If they paid $1,000 in taxes, the maximum increase in their bill would be $10 for a total of $1,010,” Tippens said. “The increase would be less than $1 per month.
“It is possible that the rapid growth of homes we are seeing could result in no tax increase at all.”
Tippens said a series bond allows the district to construct building or purchase items as they need them. By drawing down monies when needed, interest is not paid on those monies until the money is used.
“Construction costs increase an average of 6 percent per year. The series bond approach allows us to meet the current class size needs of our students at a much lower construction cost,” Tippens said.
“We have structured this bond as we have our previous bonds with a very conservative outlook allowing room for interest rate increases. Currently interest rates are at record lows. Current bonds are selling at 1.25 percent.
At this time there are five elementary schools, one intermediate school, one middle school and one high school with a Freshmen Academy.