McAlester Public Schools establishes task force for bond election; board to decide in January

It has been nearly 20 years since McAlester Public Schools last passed a bond issue.

In 2011, the district attempted to pass two bond issues in June and October, but both failed.

"We passed a small bond issue in 1996, but it has been nearly 20 years since a bond has passed for our schools," MPS superintendent Marsha Gore said.

Because of this, Gore said the district is taking precaution before bringing another bond issue to the public through establishing a Bond Issue Task Force.

The task force was initiated at the start of the school year when Gore was approached by the members of the community.

"They thought it might be a good time for a school bond," Gore said. "We started the conversation in September, and in November we formally brought it to a community meeting."

In January, the task force will bring its findings before the Board of Education. The board will then determine whether or not to bring the bond issue before the community in an April bond election.

Two main items on tap for the potential and dollars are technology and a new early childhood center.

"Members of the task force are ranking priorities, and these are two that keep coming up."

The new early childhood center would house Pre-K through first grade students. Currently students are split between three buildings.

"We'd like to have all of these students under one roof. Right now, we only have one P.E. teacher, one counselor.  We have six classrooms in one building, 10 in another and 10 in another. We'd like to see P.E., music and art all in one building."

The bond issue would also address building repairs district-wide.

"Like most districts in the state, we have suffered cuts to funding and don't have a lot in our building fund," Gore said.

"Most of our schools are over 50 years old. Two schools are still on boiler systems. Over the past year, we've done a lot of roofing repairs, but we don't have the money for the types of repair we need."

McAlester currently has zero bond indebtedness, according to Gore. Should the bond issue pass, this would mean an increase in property taxes.

"We are the largest school district in Pittsburg County and we have the lowest property taxes.  But unfortunately, no matter what we do, property tax will rise with the bond issue."

The amount of this bond issue and whether or not McAlester will have an April election will be determined at a January board meeting.

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