By BOB GIBBINS
Tahlequah voters approved two school bond issues Tuesday, jump-starting the process for approximately $30 million in school district improvements.
A light voter turnout approved a proposal that will ultimately provide $29 million for constructing, equipping, repairing and remodeling school buildings. It will also help purchase furniture, fixtures and equipment, and pay for acquisition of a site for a new facility.
A second proposal calls for $1.28 million to be used to purchase buses.
The transportation proposal was approved 482-241, and the buildings proposal passed 481-247.
Unofficial totals provided by Cherokee County Election Board Secretary Connie Parnell shows only 3.4 percent of the 21,528 registered voters eligible to vote cast ballots Tuesday. Parnell said two provisional ballots were cast. The election board meets at 5 p.m. Friday to certify the totals and make them official.
“I’m tremendously excited,” Tahlequah I-35 Superintendent Dr. Shannon Goodsell said after the votes were tallied. “This is a tremendous opportunity for our Tahlequah Public Schools students. A huge ‘Go, Tigers’!”
The building proposal includes improving cafeteria facilities at Tahlequah High School and Greenwood Elementary, and constructing a new elementary school. It also takes in roofing and siding, plus lighting for the track.
Six potential locations are being eyed for the new school. Four of those sites are on the south side of the city.
New route buses and driver education cars will be purchased from the $1.28 million package.
Goodsell said the school district and community can now move forward and provide quality facilities and transportation for students.
“I’ve never met a community more committed to its young people than Tahlequah,” he said. “The citizens of this community and patrons of this school district believe in quality education, and that truly needs to be admired.”
I-35 School Board President Tim Baker said he was “thrilled” with the outcome.
“I’m pleasantly surprised that it passed by the margin we had,” said Baker.
Baker said economic conditions were a concern for school officials, but voters believe the district needs the funding. He said they want to make the improvements and see the school district succeed.
“The people stepped up and voted,” he said.