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Putnam City proposing historic $133.45 million bond issue

A 2020 bond proposition includes funds to build a new basketball gym at Putnam City West High School. [Photo by Alonzo Adams for The Oklahoman]
A 2020 bond proposition includes funds to build a new basketball gym at Putnam City West High School. [Photo by Alonzo Adams for The Oklahoman]

Voters will decide on the largest bond issue in the history of the Putnam City school district next year, as a $133.45 million package will be on the ballot in February.

Putnam City’s 2020 bond issue would raise property taxes within the district to $2.48 per month on a $100,000 home. Residents in the district will vote on the bond issue Feb. 11. Any school bond issue in Oklahoma needs at least 60% of the vote to pass.

“The 2020 Bond provides funds to meet the daily needs to educate, protect, and enrich Putnam City students,” Superintendent Fred Rhodes said in a statement. “Proposed projects range from safety to accessibility to education to the arts to athletics. Every aspect of a Putnam City student’s education is impacted by this bond beginning with the foundations of education.”

The vote would cover two bond propositions. The first asks for $126.25 million for school improvements, including safety and security repairs, technology upgrades, textbooks, maintenance and new construction.

A second proposition requests $7.2 million for new school buses. The bond would replace buses manufactured in the early 2000s.

Every Putnam City school would see new purchases and improvements from the bond issue.

“We are proud of the work we have put into the proposed bond projects,” Putnam City School Board President Gail LoPresto said in a statement. “The items proposed are what we need to continue to offer the quality education we give students, and what we envision for the future of Putnam City students. Every student at Putnam City would benefit from this bond.”

With the 2020 issue, the district would build a new basketball gym at Putnam City West High School and could start work on the Centennial Center, which would be a multipurpose facility for performing arts, offices and professional development.

Every student at all three Putnam City high schools would receive a mobile technology device, likely either a tablet or a laptop, to access digital textbooks and do schoolwork. A committee is studying which type of device would best serve students and whether they will be allowed to take them home, said Sheradee Hurst, Putnam City communications director.

Becky Gooch serves on both the district school board and bond committee. She said technology is one of the most crucial inclusions in the 2020 proposal.

“It doesn’t look the same when I was in school, and that’s exciting because kids don’t learn the same way they used to,” Gooch said. “We’re trying to meet kids where they are. I think the technology is, to me, hands down the most exciting thing on the bond.”

Putnam City already provides an iPad for every elementary and middle-school student to keep at school.The district would receive bond money from six releases over a five-year period.

If the bond passes, the first release would become available in April, opening up $18.75 million to build, equip and furnish the new Putnam City West basketball gym. This would finance a new facade, locker rooms, a storm shelter and restrooms while providing new furniture, equipment and technology for the school.

The largest release of funds would come in April 2021 with $28.5 million for the Centennial Center. The district’s administrative staff would likely move into the Centennial Center, which is planned to be built on the lot immediately south of the current administration building, 5401 NW 40, Gooch said.

The 2020 bond specifically requests a performing arts venue in the Centennial Center.

Putnam City is still paying for projects from its 2014 and 2017 bonds. The 2017 bond issue for $22 million financed new buses, digital textbooks, AED defibrillators and bus safety features. This package didn’t require a property tax increase.

Worth $120 million, the district’s 2014 bond financed 160 improvement projects across district schools, most notably the first investment in rebuilding James L. Capps Middle School.The 2014 package charged $3 for every $1,000 paid in property taxes.

“We try very hard to maximize what we can get with our dollars for what it costs our patrons,” Gooch said. “We are trying hard to prepare for what we anticipate our kids need, not just today and tomorrow but in 10 or 15 years. What we have now we’ll still have in 50 years.”

Nuria Martinez-Keel

Nuria Martinez-Keel joined The Oklahoman in 2019. She found a home at the newspaper while interning in summer 2016 and 2017. Nuria returned to The Oklahoman for a third time after working a year and a half at the Sedalia Democrat in Sedalia,... Read more ›