We believe the Norman community should support the $186 million school bond that will be on February's ballot.
The bond, which was approved unanimously by the Norman Public Schools Board of Education, will provide safety and security updates throughout the district; allow NPS to fund continued maintenance on facilities, as well as new furniture, flooring, ceiling tiles and paint; add dedicated storm shelters to every school that doesn't already have them; expand the Nancy O'Brian Center; build or renovate a new Dimensions Academy; add new buses to the NPS fleet and provide safety features for other buses.
NPS has been a faithful steward of taxpayer dollars up to this point, building what NPS leaders said they were going to build and investing in resources and technology required to provide a quality, 21st century education to thousands of Norman students. Touring the renovated Norman High and Norman North demonstrates what NPS can do with bond funding.
The process by which the district determined what it wanted to be done -- including an independent demographic study, community survey, and school survey -- appears thorough and thoughtful. Other organizations could take a page out of NPS' book when it comes to determining what community members expect them to deliver. The priorities in the bond match those of the community. In 2018, security is the number one concern for parents and students alike, and the district's commitment to safety and security upgrades throughout the district demonstrates that NPS is listening to the community.
Ensuring that every NPS school has a dedicated storm shelter is a must. The 2013 Moore tornado taught us that. The fact that the new spaces will double as fine arts rooms is just icing on the cake. Norman is a community that supports the arts, and new spaces for art and music programs, as well as an expansion of the Nancy O'Brian Center for the Performing Arts, demonstrate that NPS understands that.
The Dimensions Academy is a key component of NPS' ability to provide quality education in an alternative environment for local students who need those opportunities. The current facility, which is owned by the state, has outgrown its usefulness, and building or renovating a more centrally located facility, where all Dimensions students can be under one roof, is an important portion of this bond project.
Education funding has been an important political topic for years, and it's obvious NPS, and other school districts, aren't getting the funding they need from the state. While teacher salaries can't be funded by school bonds, Norman can support its school district, freeing up more resources for the teachers and classrooms. The millage rate increase to around 30, roughly a $40 annual increase for a $100,000 home, would place NPS firmly in the center of millage rates across the state, and this is the first time in 17 years NPS has asked for a rate increase.
Norman has made it clear that investing in education is a top priority. Voters can back that up Feb. 12 by voting for the school bond.