Moving closer to a new school

Parking lot paving has been the most recent of the outdoor work being done at the site of a new elementary school being constructed on the west side of Pauls Valley. (PV Democrat photo)

A long journey is moving closer to a new beginning for a construction project that will soon bring Pauls Valley a brand new school on the west side of town.

Parking lot paving looks to have recently wrapped up for a building that when finished in a few weeks will be the new home of the youngest of local students.

Superintendent Mike Martin says it's still too early to know when the school for prekindergarten through the third grade, along with teachers and staff, will be ready for classes.

“After that they'll be giving us the keys,” Martin said about the work to pave the parking lot.

“We're waiting for the furniture to come in and then set up. The computer systems and all the technology – it will take some time to get all that in place.

“We'll open the school when it's ready to open. We don't know exactly when that's going to happen.”

Also still needed is equipment for the school's playground, which will be separated into areas for the youngest of kids on one side and those in first, second and third grade on the other.

It was back in April 2018 when local voters passed the bond issue that includes this new school. That came after two previous ones proposing a school site near a local industrial park fell just short.

The school is for students now housed in Jackson Elementary and Jefferson Early Learning Center.

The gym constructed at the new school is also expected to serve as a public storm shelter.

It wasn't the only project from the 2018 bond issue as a new agriculture education classroom has already been completed and is now being used, while renovations to the PV High School gym have are finished. Work on a new band building is continuing to move forward.

As for the new elementary school, the possible opening could come early in 2021.

Martin believes the new structure, once open, should have enough space to handle any COVID-19 related problems.

“We have a little more room in the school; it allows us to socially distance better,” he said.

“Besides, it's not the younger kids that we've had the problems with. Things are going good at the elementary schools.”

The recent problems have mostly been with contact tracing and quarantining needed for students at the local junior high and high school.

Those problems led to PV's school board deciding to start an alternating schedule of in-person and remote classes at the two schools on Nov. 16.

“It's going well,” the superintendent said.

“Since we started it one thing we haven't done is send any kids home for quarantine. We are still seeing adults and teachers needing to quarantine.”

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One concern about the new school could be how the school's parking and drop-off of students is going to work. Another could be the traffic flow on state Highway 19, also known as Grant Avenue.

From all indications the Oklahoma Department of Transportation plans to slow vehicle speeds a little bit near the school.

Some local support has over time been expressed for a new traffic light to be installed on SH 19 because of the new school.

Instead, the plan appears to be to reduce the speed limit from 50 mph to 45 mph for both eastbound and westbound traffic in the area near the school site. New traffic signs are expected to be installed at some point.

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