On June 8, 2021, Tulsans will vote on the 2021 Bond for Tulsa Public Schools, a $414 million investment in Tulsa children. Proposition 1 of the 2021 Bond will support safe learning environments and dedicate $14.7 million to improve building accessibility for all Tulsans. In addition to interior accessibility upgrades, Proposition 1 will also allocate $7 million to improve accessibility through improvements to parking lots, paving, and exterior lighting across the district.
The average age of Tulsa Public School buildings is 61 years; 60% of our buildings are more than 50 years old, and 19% are older than 80 years. During the design and construction process, there was no standard in place to ensure buildings were accessible for people with disabilities. That standard came about 31 years ago when the Americans with Disabilities Act was passed. Today, people with disabilities represent about 15% of the global population and are the largest minority group in the world.
Thanks to Tulsa voters, we have made improvements to building accessibility with previous bond funding. However, many of our buildings still need updates to make the buildings usable to all students, team members, and visitors.
“I worked at one elementary school for a couple of years. There were several people, including myself, that used mobility scooters or electric wheelchairs and things like that,” said Lora Boyle, a member of the Tulsa Public Schools Citizen Bond Development Committee. “Luckily, that building was very accessible for students, parents, and I to enter, navigate and exit relatively easily. But that building was one floor, and I have experienced some Tulsa Public Schools buildings where it’s a lot harder.”
Proposition 1 will fund phase one of our ten-year accessibility improvement plan designed to ensure that every building and site in the district is accessible for every Tulsan.
“We want school to be a space that successfully supports all students, families, and team members,” said Chief Finance and Operations Officer Jorge Robles. “This funding will improve the accessibility of our exterior entrances and lighting, parking lots, walkways, restrooms, doorways, ramps, and even throughways at all buildings.”
In 2020, Patrick Henry Elementary School had a complete interior building remodel fitted to house the district’s elementary-level Deaf Education program. The school now has multiple access points, ramps, lifts, and state-of-the-art communication technology throughout the building.
Webster Middle and High School is also another site with recent accessibility upgrades.
“Here at Webster, we’ve had additional ramps added to the middle and high school buildings. These ramps are closer to the parking lot and have made a big impact. Also, there was an elevator put into the middle school,” said Webster Middle and High School teacher Patricia Mott. “However, there are still things needed to make our buildings more accessible. Being in a mobility chair, I have trouble opening doors and accessing certain parts of our building. The addition of automatic doors, handrails, and ramps, etc., could make a difference.”
Our students and the community at large deserve buildings that provide accessibility and inclusivity.
“We are grateful for the help we receive, but we would rather have the ability to be self-sufficient in the buildings,” said Mott.
Teachers and support professionals are excited about the possibilities funding from the 2021 bond will allow. The funding enables continued improvement while ensuring we can pay attention to all the seemingly small details that can make a huge impact.
“Somethings people don’t think about is that even though there may be at least one exit on every building that is accessible, that access point may not be at the front door. That means people who need it would have to find another way around the building to use it,” said Boyle. “That is something very simple Tulsa Public Schools is thinking about, and it makes a big difference. Tulsa Public Schools and the Citizen Bond Development Committee are thinking of those small details to ensure everyone feels welcome.”
You can find more information and details on each proposition at www.tulsaschools.org/2021bond. The proposed bond package will not increase your tax rates - it is designed to keep your property taxes level.
Early voting is available on Thursday, June 3 and Friday, June 4 from 8am-6pm at the Tulsa County Board of Elections. The Tulsa Voter Van will provide free rides to the polls for Tulsa voters. Contact them at 918-200-9153 or www.tulsavotervan.com.