Empire looks for $1.1 million school bond to fix gym, bathrooms - KSWO 7News | Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Empire looks for $1.1 million school bond to fix gym, bathrooms

(Source KSWO) (Source KSWO)
(Source KSWO) (Source KSWO)

EMPIRE CITY, OK (KSWO) - As we roll into the new year, the administration at Empire Public Schools is looking to make some big changes, as the public heads to the polls next week to vote on a $1.1 million school bond.

The money would be used to fund several projects, including a full renovation of a gym that is at least 70 years old -- and getting all the school's bathrooms up to code. They also plan to repair hail damage to the building, build a sidewalk for Pre-K students and fix some fences around the school.

The bond would be paid for with property taxes, but Empire Public Schools superintendent Vicki Davison told me the bond wouldn’t raise the cost of property taxes for anyone. She said their current bond issue is set to expire this year, meaning this new bond would simply take its place and residents would continue paying what they are already paying now.

The old gym at Empire Public Schools is the oldest building at the school. When you walk in, you can instantly tell its age as you're greeted by cracks in the ceiling, holes in every wall and even one spot of the roof that you can see daylight starting to poke through. Empire also has what they call the new gym, which is actually more than 20 years old, but Davison says that is not nearly enough.

"Every school needs two facilities now,” Davison said. “You have girls and boys sports that are equal, which at one point in time we all know it wasn't so important for you to have two facilities, but now in the last 20 years it's been very important to have two."

Moving out of the gym and into the bathrooms at the school, you run into a variety of problems. Davison says when one bathroom floods, it actually leaks into the nearby classrooms.  On top of that, none of the bathrooms are wheelchair accessible.

"We do not have any students in wheelchairs now but we do not know that that's not going to happen,” Davison said. “These facilities are built long enough that we don't even have stalls around all of the toilets in the boy’s facilities."

Davison said, naturally, the bathroom stalls being replaced will be a top priority if the bond passes.

"One of our young men went home and told his dad I will just not use that restroom down there because there's only one stall that's enclosed and the other is not and I just don't want to use the restroom. Well, that's not a good thing,” Davison said.

Davison said they also want to put up new fences around the school, especially at the elementary school because security is important.

They also want to install sidewalks from the Pre-K building, which is on one side of campus, to the cafeteria, which is on the complete opposite side. The lack of a sidewalk in the area makes the walk difficult for the young students, especially during inclement weather.

"When things are really bad we actually put them in a bus and take them to the cafeteria,” Davison said.

Often we hear about school bonds failing because residents feel there are items within the bond that aren't absolutely necessary, but Davison says for this bond she doesn't feel like that is the case at all.

"We feel like we are being responsible in what we are asking for and the community of Empire love this school, they absolutely love this school, just like I do,” Davison said. “I feel like they are willing to come in and make sure the kids have things they need. They expect us to be responsible in what we ask for and we are trying to make sure we're doing that."

Davison said enrollment is the highest it has been at Empire in the eight years she has been there, which is just another reason this bond is important. Voting for the bond is next Tuesday, the 10th. It must be approved by a 60 percent super majority.

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