Union Public Schools wasted no time jumping into new bond projects, once voters had approved the district’s first multi-year bond in February 2018 and initial funding was secured. Many of the bond projects will be completed in phases over the next five years, as the district does not receive the $128.6 million in funding all at one time. Work proceeds as funds become available.
Here are the projects that were completed in 2018 (Year 1 of 5):
Efforts by K-12 schools to give every student a laptop computer (called “1-to-1”) have been shown to increase student achievement in English/Language Arts, writing, math, and science. In August 2018, Union made considerable progress toward this goal by distributing laptops to all students at the Ninth Grade Center. By fall 2019, every Union student in grades 9-12 will have the use of a computer 24/7. This will enable teachers to deliver more personalized content to students, boost their technology skills, and empower young people to do more complex and creative work.
“Students are taking pride in their devices, as evidenced by very little breakage or loss,” said Kenneth Moore, principal at the Ninth Grade Center. “When visiting classrooms, there is a tangible sense of engagement like none I’ve ever experienced before. Having devices in the hands of every student has certainly transformed the way instruction is delivered and has empowered the students to take a greater sense of responsibility for their own learning.”
The district also began testing 1-to-1 in elementary grades with the distribution of iPads to students in grades pre-K – 5 at Boevers Elementary. “We have seen our students grow to be more independent and confident learners in a short amount of time,” said Principal Amy Smith of Boevers Elementary. “There are a variety of tools available on the iPad that allow students to create projects that demonstrate learning in multiple ways. Students are able to use all four domains of literacy – listening, speaking, reading, and writing – with the use of these apps.
“There is a wide variety of books to choose from for independent reading, which has improved engagement levels and allowed teachers to individualize instruction in small groups. The iPad also provides many accommodations to help struggling readers like dictation and Google Translate.”
Already home to 550 students, Ochoa Elementary is poised for the finish line, with a spring 2019 completion date looming on the horizon. That is when the second half of the building will be completed, enabling Ochoa to double its capacity to accommodate 1,000 students in fall 2019.
Over the summer, work was finished on the school’s one-of-a-kind playground. The mammoth play pit, surrounded by stone, provides a natural amphitheater that works in conjunction with the covered shelter and performance space. Add slides, climbing toys, and a winding walking path with plenty of trees and green space, and it’s the ideal play area for active children.
“Our students absolutely love this space,” said Principal Rita Long. “Being a school that will ultimately accommodate 1,000 students, Ochoa needed a playground with large spaces and many choices. There is something different to explore and investigate every time you come outside.” There are just as many exciting features inside. “Multiple learning spaces will be available to students in this phase,” said Long, “including the Learning Stairs, with steps that double as tiered seating, creating a small open auditorium.”
Maker spaces for project-based learning, as well as two art rooms, each with its own outdoor workspace, are on the way. Also nearing completion are the building’s west entrance, a media center, reading nooks and a slide that students can take from one floor to another.
“We expect to be done with Ochoa in early spring, maybe even as early as January,” said Bushyhead.
“In retrospect, there was great risk in breaking this monumental project into three phases,” said Superintendent Kirt Hartzler. “But Union parents and patrons have been unwavering in their support. Once they see its completion, I believe they will agree that the outcome has been well worth the wait.”
After 26 years, the swimming pool at Union’s 6th and 7th Grade Center was in need of some TLC. Other than minor patches and basic maintenance, the pool is what was built when the building opened in 1993. The eight-lane, 30-meter swimming pool was in dire need of repairs and resurfacing.
The pool is used for physical education classes, after-school activities and competitions, and practices for all secondary students participating in swimming. “For many of our students, it’s their first introduction to water activities,” said Bushyhead. “Swim Tulsa, one of the largest swimming organizations, rents the facilities, so the pool generates income.”
In addition to resurfacing, new tile and guttering were installed, and repairs made to fix water leaching issues.
As STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) continues to be a strong focus for Union students, the demand for “maker space” with fabrication lab equipment and 3-D printers continues to grow. In Phase I of this project, a district-owned warehouse property near Union High School – formerly Metro Outdoor Living – has begun its transformation. In addition to roof repairs, an HVAC upgrade, fresh exterior paint and the replacement of leaky windows, the existing warehouse space has been converted into seven classroom spaces with updated restrooms.
One classroom will be set up as a computer lab, another for engineering, and a third for “wet lab” activities, with the remainder as standard classrooms. All spaces are creative, highly usable space, with walls that are largely white boards.
Although Phase II is not scheduled until 2021, don’t expect this new facility to lie dormant. “Our plan is to occupy it with about 200 students beginning in fall 2019,” said Charlie Bushyhead, Associate Superintendent. “The specific classes will be determined after the enrollment process, but our target will be some combination of STEM classes – literally, Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. It will be project-based, problem-based learning, with an initial focus on serving high school students.”
Phase II will involve more fully realized maker spaces. “In the long term, we hope this building will serve as a demonstration classroom, and also an activity space, for students from throughout the district. There will be 3-D printers, CNC machines [computer-controlled machine tools used in manufacturing], and a woodworking area. That’s what has been envisioned. It will ultimately be a destination for in-district field trips for all Union students.”
It’s not unusual to experience drama on the stage at Union’s Performing Art Center. Thanks to recent upgrades, however, the most dramatic flourishes have occurred at the front of the house. The installation of new dark wood accents and tile, dimmable lighting, along with larger, more luxurious bathrooms, has transformed the foyer into a warmer, more intimate space.
“One of our goals was to improve the atmosphere for the PAC, as it is one of our most-rented spaces,” said Bushyhead. “Altogether, the district generated more than $500,000 in rentals during the 2017-18 school year, plus an additional $300,000 in concessions and other charges for security and amenities. The PAC, along with the UMAC, is among our Top 2 rented spaces, so it has to be competitive with other facilities.”
The foyer space also serves as a seating area for lunch at Union High School and a lobby for the gymnasium.
Moore’s playground was original to the school (built in 2000), and in need of repair and a remodel. Improvements were made to improve the drainage, so students can play on the equipment soon after it rains. The concrete border and fall material (wood mulch) will be replaced, and handicap accessibility improved by the installation of a concrete ramp. (Target completion: December 2018 or spring 2019).
Darnaby Elementary – which opened in 1980 – has in many ways exceeded expectations. “Thirty-eight years is exceptional for a roof, by any standard,” said Bushyhead. “We always try to extend the life as much as possible, but it was overdue for a replacement.”
In addition to a new roof, the building’s HVAC system was replaced with a system that is more energy efficient and provides greater temperature control. New ceiling tiles were installed, as well as LED lighting to replace old fluorescents.
“The technology behind lighting has changed dramatically,” said Bushyhead. “Teachers have more control, which creates a better learning environment. Energy efficiency is another benefit, not only with electricity cost, but maintenance, like less frequent changing of bulbs and ballasts. Typically, these changes pay for themselves in three years or less.” A playground upgrade and new carpeting are planned in 2019.
Outside of a minor renovation of the front entry and the repurposing of a classroom, it’s been nearly 30 years since Union’s Ninth Grade Center has had a facelift. Built in 1989, it had older light fixtures and the common areas were dark and uninviting. Over the summer, new energy-efficient lighting was installed and the stained sisal wall covering was removed and replaced with tile, which brightened things up considerably.
In Gym 1, the bleachers were replaced for safety reasons, and the rubber floor exchanged for wood. “What they probably didn’t know back in 1989 is that there are a greater number of injuries on rubber than on wood,” said Bushyhead. “By replacing the floor, we will resume having athletic and spirit events there, including basketball, P.E., volleyball, baseball, softball, and other activities.”
The building’s 30-year chiller was recently removed and a new variable-speed chiller installed, which is more energy efficient.
In 2018, Union purchased:
4 Special Education buses
17 route buses
2 large activity buses
2 small activity buses
Computer repair counter/Union High School: to service student laptops in conjunction with the 1-to-1 project
UMAC chiller replaced – 705-ton system broken. Replaced with new 350-ton system, which is more than adequate for the space. The 750-ton unit will be rebuilt and used to power the entire new stadium structure, once completed.
Union High School chiller replaced
Cedar Ridge Elementary – two restrooms remodeled
Andersen paving project
Cedar Ridge drainage corrections
Child Nutrition freezers at Operations Building