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Voters to decide fate of LPS bond

Tuesday is the final day to make your vote count for the Lawton Public Schools $99.5 million Student Investment Program bond.

Registered voters can cast their votes at their assigned precincts from 7 a.m to 7 p.m. Tuesday, said Amy Sims, Comanche County Election Board secretary. 

Voters can vote on the 200-word ballot that sums up the six separate propositions in the proposed 11-year bond resolution. The 200 word limit is set by law, Sims said. An addendum listing each of the separate propositions and the amount of funding for each out of the total $99.5 million will be available for each voter. 

"The No. 1 thing I would like voters to know is that we do not take lightly the fact that we're asking them to invest their hard-earned money in our school district and our students. For that reason, we have done everything we can for the last four years to accomplish everything we said we would do and have added extra oversight so they can be sure that happens," said LPS Superintendent Tom Deighan.

"The fact that consistently blows people away is the comparison of our millage rates to other districts," Deighan said. LPS has a millage rate of 7.39, while Cache Public Schools receive 27 and Elgin Public Schools receive 33. 

"For decades, the districts we are compared to have been funding their schools at 300 to 500 percent more than Lawton Public Schools. That is why other districts have newer buildings and up-to-date equipment," he said, explaining that bond issues allow districts to fund expensive projects because there is no other funding source in the budget that allows that. One of the big points is that currently "our kids don't have the same equipment that other districts do," he said, explaining that there isn't any budget available to supply the equipment and resources that other districts routinely provide their students. 

Some bond details

The propositions included in the bond were derived from about two years of in-depth surveying of community members and district staff on what they wanted for the students. Technology for the students and classrooms was the No. 1 priority, Deighan said. The funding will provide the items that students, parents and educators take for granted in most districts across Oklahoma. That is why this is being called the "Student Investment Program or SIP.

The individual propositions and the amount for each are: 

nEight elementary safe rooms/storm shelters, $14.5 million.

It is a minimum of eight (safe rooms) at elementary schools. This will provide safe rooms for schools "with absolutely no safe space, like Almor West Elementary," he said. "We had a team of architects come in and assess every single building. ... These are the buildings that have the highest need."

nProviding student and instructional technology, $7.5 million. 

This item was the top priority as a result of the surveys, Deighan said. 

The funding is for two areas: One is for student-held technology. At most schools, including the high schools, some students have very little if any devices to use, he said. The other area is instruction technology, which over the next 10 years will have to be replaced and upgraded.

nProgram equipment for school libraries; band, orchestra and choir; athletic, physical education and health; fine arts; and agriculture farm; and to replace aging furniture, $12.4 million.

School libraries as well as the electives have not been funded at all since 2009. Shelves in the school libraries, one of the main sourcesof research for both students and teachers, are empty or have outdated material. Even though there are resources online, students do not have access because they don't have devices. 

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