MPS

The Lucy Smith Center at McAlester High School is shown above. With the completion of payments on bonds benefitting McAlester Public Schools that resulted in construction of the Smith Center and other facilities through a 2003 quarter-cent sales tax, MPS is set to receive approximately $1.6 million in surplus funds that derived from the city of McAlester-backed measure.

McAlester Public Schools stands to gain approximately $1.6 million — with a couple of adjoining school districts likely gaining much smaller amounts.

McAlester city councilors have agreed to a request from MPS Superintendent Randy Hughes to fund the $1.6 million to fund capital improvements, including safe rooms, at Puterbaugh Middle School along with additional security measures at other schools in the MPS District.

The funding is to come from money originating from the quarter-cent city sales tax city voters passes in 2003 to benefit educational opportunities. The approximately $1.6 million is what is left after the 2003 bonds are paid off. The 2003 quarter-cent sales tax to fund education has been set to expire in July, when a new one-eighth cent sales tax to help fund education will take its place.

In a letter to the city, Hughes said MPS wants to use up to $1,500,000 of the money left over from the 2003 bond issue for the new construction of five safe rooms at Puterbaugh Middle School, plus another $100,000 for security measures, such as bulletproof glass, security doors and windows and other items.

City councilors voted to pass the measure during the council’s regular Tuesday night meeting at City Hall.

The school’s proposal acknowledges that the funds could be apportioned on a per-student basis, taking into account students who reside within the McAlester city limits, but attend other schools. Portions of both the Krebs and Frink school districts are inside the McAlester city limits, but the amounts those schools would receive could be limited to a few thousand dollars, based on previous times the funds were allocated.

On Friday, Hughes said plans are still being formed in regard to MPS. The proposal sent to the city states “McAlester Public Schools would like to add five safe rooms that can be utilized as classrooms at the Puterbaugh School and various safety/security improvements, i.e. bulletproof glass, security door and windows, etc.”

“We want the safe rooms and helping other schools for renovations and getting up to code,” Hughes said Friday. “We’re going to see where we’re at. We’re looking at doing safety measures at every school.”

Number one is making sure doors to individual classrooms can be locked and stay locked, Hughes said.

“Students behind locked doors have nearly a 100 percent chance of surviving,” Hughes said. The capacity to individually lock each classroom door coupled with bulletproof glass in the windows would greatly/ raise the safety factor for students, Hughes noted.

Hughes and other administrators are also looking at placing a bullet proof film on the glass doors at the entrance to most schools, or by installing bullet proof glass out front, if that’s necessary.

“We’re going to hit everything,” Hughes said, referring to considering all of the security aspects.

The five new combination safe rooms and classrooms should be enough to handle the 400 students who attend Puterbaugh in case of an emergency situation, according to Hughes.

In a letter to the city, Hughes expressed his appreciation for the city’s assistance with the school projects.

“With the volatility of state funding and so much uncertainty surrounding the educational environment of Oklahoma, McAlester Public Schools cannot begin to express our gratitude for the city of McAlester and the city council for being such a valuable partner in supporting and advancing the educational opportunities for our city’s youth,” Hughes said in the letter.

On Friday, Hughes expressed his appreciation once more in regard to the upcoming projects.

“I appreciate the city council, mayor and city manager for seeing the need and helping ensure our kids will be safe,” Hughes said.

Contact James Beaty at jbeaty@mcalesternews.com

Contact James Beaty by email at jbeaty@mcalesternews.com.

James Beaty is senior editor at the McAlester News-Capital