By: Shelly Robinson | Category: In Our Communities | Issue: November 2007
Checking out plans for the new Ram Wellness Center are 8th grade student-athletes (back) Brittany Robinson, Cailyn Burd, Alex Cash, Drake Holderman, Molly Peyton, (seated) Alex Aucoin and Matt Gallagher.
Ever hosted a birthday party and tried to fit 30 kids into your living room? Try fitting more than 900 student-athletes into the current facilities at Owasso Public Schools, and you will see what Danny Hightower, athletic director, is facing.
Owasso’s booming development is causing big growing pains. With over 8,500 students enrolled, the Owasso Public Schools Board of Education has called for a record bond issue of $42.3 million to benefit students from kindergarten through grade 12. What is the good news? An increase in property taxes is not anticipated. Because the district’s net assessed valuation is growing at a double-digit rate, it should fund this bond election.
In the past year, the district’s valuation has grown from $289 million to $338 million. Last April’s record bond of $36.25 million passed with an 82 percent approval rate. School officials are hoping the district’s patrons will educate themselves on the proposed projects and head to the voting booths on November 13.
A large bond committee spent several hours with school officials, architects, bondsmen and others over a four-month period. The committee included parents, local business representatives, city officials, former and current members of the Owasso Public School Board of Education, as well as representatives from every school site. Committee members reviewed each project in detail, asking questions and making recommendations.
With the passage of the bond, several projects will begin, and those in progress will continue. The district is in need of an eighth elementary school, which would be located south of 76th Street in the southeast quadrant of the city. The school would be completed in one phase as opposed to in several stages as financially necessary in the past. Owasso Public Schools Bond Committee members are excited about this progress. “In the past, having to build in stages has extended the construction time, the cost and the disruption to students. Having the funds to build a complete school, from start to finish, is a huge improvement,” says Cindy Dean, parent. In addition to the eighth elementary school, the site would also include a playground, three baseball fields and two football and soccer fields.
The high school will see progress on the installation of an updated heating, ventilation and air conditioning system, while the mid-high will see multiple projects. Included is expansion of the commons area, new offices and a controlled entrance for increased security. The current parking capacity will be doubled with the addition of a new lot behind the building.
The eighth grade site will receive a much-needed football and soccer practice field. The construction of at least 10 new tennis courts will allow the school the required number of courts to host tennis tournaments. These courts will also be available for public use.
Perhaps the most visible project will be construction of the Ram Wellness Center in the north end zone of the football field. Due to limited room on the high school campus, this three-story building will maximize the available space and allow for its use during football and soccer games and band events. Once again, the building will be completed in one phase and will provide dressing areas, weight rooms, training rooms, offices, meeting rooms and much-needed equipment storage. Long-awaited visitor restrooms and concessions will be installed on the ground floor. Dr. Ogilvie, superintendent of Owasso Public Schools, pointed out that this facility would be used year-round. “We have students using the current facilities all summer,” he says. “We have camps, weight-lifting and all kinds of programs going on outside the school year. This will truly be a multipurpose building.”
In the plans for the Ram Wellness Center, bond committee members considered the privacy of residents in the surrounding neighborhood. As a result, there will be no viewing windows on the north side of the building to respect the privacy of the homes. The building also will not surpass the current height of the press box.
The band bleachers, currently located where the center will be built, will be relocated to the empty area just north of the visitor side bleachers. According to David Gorham, director of bands, they will be a separate unit and should provide higher-quality sound for Ram fans. “It will be great since the sound will be aimed at the home crowd instead of the opposite end zone,” he says. The band will look sharp in new uniforms and will be playing several new instruments if the issue passes. These items are also part of the bond package.
With the addition of the Ram Wellness Center, major renovations will be made to the facility where the Lady Rams soccer and track teams are housed. The current girls’ field house will undergo an extreme makeover and will be the new home to the Rams and Lady Rams track, cross country and soccer teams. It will be bricked to match the surrounding structures and will contain four new locker rooms, toilet and shower facilities, offices and equipment storage.
About $1 million would be allotted for new buses throughout the school district. With Owasso’s growth, this would accommodate for the increasing enrollment in schools.
The remainder of the funds will go toward technology needs, textbooks, maintenance and repairs. “This is the largest amount we’ve ever requested for technology needs,” says Dr. Ogilvie. “Over $1 million will be used to keep our computer labs and classrooms up to date. The business community is investing in our city, the Owasso Chamber of Commerce has endorsed the bond issue, and we need to invest in our schools. This valuation is unprecedented in Owasso, and we need to make the most of this opportunity.”