McAlester Public Schools sets April bond election to address Early Childhood Centers, technology

MCALESTER -- Washington Early Childhood Center is one of three campuses serving McAlester’s kindergarten and first grade students.

And all three schools struggle with the same problem -- space.

“Right now, they are confined to the classroom, the playground or the cafeteria. We don't have a gym here, so on cold rainy days, don't have anywhere to go," said Washington principal Dawn Testa.

Because the space confinements, each school also shares a music teacher, P.E. teacher, counselor and librarian

“We are sharing those between three different buildings right now, so it's very limited time to have us in one area,” Testa said. 

A proposed $28 million school bond would address the space issues by creating a new state-of-the art facility and bring all three campuses under roof.

“It's going to give us more room to service any child that wants to come to McAlester Public Schools and also have great service for them and not have to share those," said Dr. Marsha Gore, MPS superintendent.

Gore said last year about 123 3-year-olds were on a waiting list due to space constraints.

Jan. 8, the MPS Board of Education approved to send that bond before voters April 1.

Should the bond issue pass, that $28 million would also go to fund district-wide technology improvements.

“Mainly, we would love to become a One-to-One Initiative,” Gore said. “We not sure if this money would probably allow us to do that, but it will allow us to make sure all of our computers are up-to-date and students are working with modern technology.”

Gore says the last bond to pass for MPS was in the late 90s. In 2011, two school bond issues were voted down in two separate elections.

“There's something here that is for everyone and that's making sure that our young children have the fresh start that they needed... I think this is going to be a successful bond issue."

In order to see this bond election’s success, MPS appointed a bond election task force and spent the last few months polling the community to get feedback on what issues within the district were most important to the district’s constituents.

RELATED: McAlester Public Schools establishes task force for bond election

“They met together and started looking back in August and September to see what our needs are in the district and narrowed them down,” Gore said. “We did a survey… and it came down to be an Early Childhood Center.”

Gore says the new center would be able to hold up to about 500 students and include a gym and safe room.  

“We’ve got a lot of open learning and area environments for the students to work with technology, to work in groups, to do lots of hands on activities…,” Gore said. “So we'll have all of those services for those children, and then also for those teachers to be able to work together and collaborate together.”

If the bond does pass in April, MPS officials hope to open the new facility to students for the 2015-16 school year. 

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