Union Public Schools to put 5-year, $152 million bond issue before voters


By John Dobberstein, Editor

The Union Public Schools said Wednesday it would ask voters to consider approval of a $152 million, 5-year bond issue on Feb. 14, with a reconfiguration of the 6th/8th Grade Center as one of the major projects. 

That project is being proposed to help ease students’ transition from elementary into the secondary environment, said UPS Spokesman Christopher Payne. 

Other key projects include ongoing investments in technology, safety and security, as well as upgrades to Athletics and Fine Arts facilities to include the UMAC, the Performing Arts Center and turf and courts for soccer, tennis, golf, indoor baseball and softball. 

The district says there's also a "significant need" for roof and HVAC systems, interior and exterior building renovations, as well as textbooks, digital curriculum, instructional resources and transportation.

“Over the last few years, we’ve had concerns about the transition of elementary students into the secondary environment,” said Superintendent Dr. Kirt Hartzler in a statement. “Now is the time, we believe, to alter the sixth grade setting to align with elementary more closely by creating smaller learning communities."

Hartzler said the district also plans to add more restrooms, a larger cafeteria and gym space "as we seek to compress lunchtime and optimize class schedules. Ultimately, we envision a more student-friendly sixth grade on the east side of the building, with the seventh grade on the west, and a building that is more conducive to a 21st century learning environment.”

The ballot will contain two propositions, with one focused solely on transportation and the replacement of aging school buses and district vehicles. Passage of both questions will not increase taxes above traditional levels. At least 60% of the voters must approve the bond for it to pass.

“Five years ago, we went out on a limb when we embarked on the district’s first 5-year general obligation bond,” Hartzler continued. “That was daring for Union, as we had previously done only annual bond elections. What a great decision that turned out to be, as no one could have anticipated the magnitude of the disruption caused by the pandemic.”

Elements of the bond proposal include:

Interior/Exterior Renovations: An estimated $46 million of the bond will go toward building interior and exterior renovations to include HVAC, roof replacements, safety and security upgrades, utility systems, paving, playgrounds, flooring, painting, windows, doors, millwork, lighting, furniture, fixtures, and equipment at sites throughout the district.

Safety & Security: Extensive changes are planned throughout the district, including:

  • The deployment of additional security cameras, door prompt sensors and other enhancements.
  • At Jarman Elementary, the entrance and front office will be renovated to upgrade security.
  • A new gym at the 6th /7th Grade Center will be a hardened facility to withstand tornado-strength winds and will also serve as the new home of Union’s spirit and winter guard programs.
  • Air quality in buildings will be heightened considerably through roof and HVAC changes; and playground and sidewalk updates will improve child safety; and
  •  A fire-retardant curtain will be installed at the High School studio theater in the event of a fire.

Technology, textbooks, digital curriculum, and instructional resources will represent a $31 million investment. Union will continue to fund “1-to-1” (one computer device for every student), as it proved especially critical during the pandemic; the district will enter phase 2 of the program, replacing older laptops. This category includes the purchase of laptops, iPads, software, licenses, copiers and assorted hardware, as well as textbooks and instructional resources. In addition, each Union site and department would also receive an allocation, some of which may fall in this category.

Athletics & Fine Arts Facility Upgrades: Student participation in extracurricular activities continues to skyrocket, which bolsters Union’s graduation rate. Projects will include:

  • Renovation of the Performing Arts Center’s aging “back of house” (dressing room areas) and orchestra pit, new orchestra shell and the installation of new intelligent light system.
  • Uniforms, equipment, technology and musical instruments for Athletics and Fine Arts.
  • UMAC improvements to include a higher-resolution video/score board, sound system, sport lighting and exterior renovations.
  • New gym and practice facility at the Union 6th/7th Grade Center.
  • Resurfacing of tennis courts and turf replacement at the soccer practice and regular fields at the 8th Grade Center, the indoor baseball/softball practice facility and at the High School track; and
  • Pool upgrade at the Sixth/Seventh Grade Center.

Voter Registration Deadline

Union patrons who are not yet registered must mail a completed registration form to the Tulsa County Election Board, postmarked by 5 p.m. on Friday, January 20, to vote in Union’s bond election. The forms are available at any Union school, the Union Education Service Center, any Tag Agency or the Tulsa County Election Board.

Absentee ballots must be requested by 5 p.m. on Monday, January 30. Completed and notarized absentee ballots must be mailed back and received by the Election Board by 7 p.m. on Election Day. 

Hand-delivered ballots to the Election Board (555 N. Denver) must be delivered by 5 p.m. on Monday, February 13. Absentee ballots may be requested by submitting an online application at https://okvoterportal.okelections.us or download an application from the Tulsa County Election Board website. For more information, visit https://www2.tulsacounty.org/electionboard/ or call the Tulsa County Election Board at 918-596-5787.

Early voting is available on the Thursday and Friday prior to the Feb. 14 election. It is open to any registered voter living in the Union district in Tulsa County who has not already returned an absentee ballot. 

Early voting locations are the Tulsa County Election Board, 555 N. Denver Ave., and Hardesty Regional Library, 8316 E. 93rd St. Early voting hours are from 8 a.m. – to 6 p.m. on Feb. 9 – 10.

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