By Joey McWilliams
SILO – In one week, those who live in the Silo school district will have an opportunity to vote on a bond issue.
In recent years, there have been other opportunities and no bond has been passed. But as the district continues to grow, Silo Superintendent Kate McDonald said needs have continued to grow as well.
“People think we’re just a small rural school,” McDonald said. “And we do have that heart, but we’re just growing like crazy. Houses are just going up everywhere and I don’t see that stopping as long as Bryan County is so fortunate to be able to bring businesses in and is providing a good place for businesses.”
Silo is the second largest district in Bryan County and has had an average daily membership (ADM) of 898.37 at the end of 2017, ahead of Colbert at 838.85 and Calera at 766.38. The enrollment for Silo at the start of this year is 903.
According to numbers from the Oklahoma Secondary Schools Activities Association, the ADM for Silo High School alone is 234.88, placing it in the top 40 percent of all high schools in Oklahoma.
This proposed bond of nearly $11 million would go to finance the construction of a new elementary building, which would contain 22 classrooms that would house pre-K through second grade and include a safe room.
Security needs would be met with this funding, as well, including new doors on all exterior doors through the campus that can be locked down simultaneously in emergencies, and new security vestibules in the entrances of the existing elementary and high school buildings to stop direct outside access into the student population.
The effect on those who live in the district would be a projected 15 percent increase in property taxes – an annual increase of $150 per every $1,000 paid.
McDonald is in her third year as superintendent and ninth year in the district.
“Our need hasn’t changed,” McDonald said. “We’ve been talking about that since Day One of this job and knew we needed to pass a bond. And we needed to fix some things here and we needed to spend our money the right way before we went to the community.
“So we’ve done a lot of things with our budget. We’ve saved and saved and done things to serve the most kids and make the greatest impact on the kids. And now on the bond, I think we’re doing that as well.”
McDonald said the biggest area of the student population now is in the elementary. But over the years, the school has shuffled groups around to put the largest groups in the largest rooms to make the most of the existing buildings, which were originally designed to hold 600 students.
“We’ve just outgrown it,” McDonald said.
“Our teachers are great teachers, but they just don’t have the opportunity to be the best teachers they can be when they are so confined.”
McDonald gave some of the numbers for the different grade levels, such as kindergarten, which has 83 students this year. The district brought in a fourth kindergarten teacher this year to spread the students out.
“With the first-graders, luckily for them, they are in our elementary building and located on the back side. Those are some of bigger classrooms.
“But it’s still not ideal. There are 87 first-graders and only three teachers. We don’t have another spot. That fourth kindergarten class took our last spot.
“We’re like that in every grade. We have three and need to go to a fourth classroom and having that new building will allow us to do that.”
McDonald also pointed out that if there are extra classrooms, the district will be able to afford to put teachers in them.
“We’ve budgeted and monitored and spent wisely. And we’ve had to because of the way the state budget has been cut and the way our budget was when I came in. We had no choice but to be frugal about what we’ve been doing and we wanted to show the community that we’re going to do our part.
“And whether it’s this year or the next year or the next year, we’re going to have to have the community’s help. That’s just public education.”
Opposition to the passage of the bond has been vocal online, among other things suggesting that the bond issue money would be used for things other than that for which is proposed, like a new agriculture building.
“Are we trying to build a new ag building?” McDonald asked. “Yes. We’ve been saving in our building fund for two years. And we have our building fund up enough that in July we decided to take bids. And the bids we got in are a little bit more than we thought we could do it for. So we tabled our bids.
“Absolutely we want to build that. But that’s out of our building and our savings fund. We’ve saved on everything from buying bulk toilet paper to the mop heads we use to just running to Lowe’s or Walmart and really monitoring our ordering. We’ve been able to save a lot of money with better organizing.”
McDonald said the bids for the elementary building ran at about $6.6 million, the security systems would be around $600,000 with construction fees additional. Also, they must factor in eight percent per year for inflation until the project is finished.
“Any of the money left over will be for the inflation and for the septic, which for us will be an additional lagoon. We can’t put another school on that same system.”
Those numbers alone don’t add up to $10.775 million. However, just because the building has been built doesn’t mean there is anything in that building to use to help for instruction of the students – like desks. McDonald said they are not just going to gut the present rooms, because those rooms are going to be used as well.
“Anything that has to do with that project, we can use that money for. But I can’t spend a dime on anything else. Furniture, wiring that’s tied in, any of the networking that we’re going to have to do – all that’s said in the legal work does allow us to furnish our buildings.
“I can’t build anything else. I can’t add on to the high school, I can’t put lights at the ball field. I can’t do any of that stuff or I will be out of compliance with the law.”
She said it is not anything that has been taken lightly.
“We need something that will make an impact on the whole community and we’re trying to do things the best way we can.
“People want to be here and I want there to be a really good reason as to why they want to be here.”
The election will be held on Tuesday, Sept. 12, and the polls will be open from 7 a.m. – 7 p.m. Seven polling precincts will be open for those registered to vote at those precincts.
• Bryan County Health Department – 1524 Chuckwa Drive, Durant
• Cobb Community Building – 537 Haynie Road, Cobb
• Faith Lutheran Church – 3802 N. Washington Ave., Durant
• Mead Baptist Church – 321 S. Church St., Mead
• Seventh Day Adventist Church – 225 Sunny Meadows Drive, Durant
• Silo High School Gymnasium – 122 Bourne St., Silo
• Victory Tabernacle Education Building – 702 E. Hwy 70, Durant