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Yukon prepares to welcome students back

When more than 9,500 students walk through the doors of Yukon schools on Aug. 16, they will be greeted by hundreds of teachers, including at least 33 teachers who will be facing students for the first time.

Assistant Superintendent Dr. Jason Brunk said the district has hired 118 teachers this year, including the 33 who are first time teachers.

He also pointed out that the new hires come from as far away as Ireland and Japan.

Almost a dozen states have shared their educators with the district, while others came from as close as Mustang, Putnam City, Oklahoma City and the Banner school districts.

Superintendent Jason Simeroth said Yukon anticipates enrollment numbers of about 9,500 this year. That would be a 2 to 2 ½ percent increase.

That type of growth led to the passage of a bond package last year that, over five years, will be used to completely recondition the district’s schools.

One major portion of the bond issue is the construction of Redstone Intermediate School, which will be built near Sara Road and Britton.

Simeroth said the architectural design on that project are nearing completion. He said it is likely the designs will be made public this fall, with a ground-breaking event planned for January.

The new school, which will house fourth- through sixth-grades, is expected to open in the 2020 school year.

Once it is completed, the district will shift the grade levels a bit, creating three intermediate schools that will funnel from nearby elementary schools.

Currently, all sixth-grade students attend classes at Yukon Middle School.

Independent and Lakeview Elementary currently serve fourth- and fifth-grade students. They eventually will add sixth grade to that mix once Redstone is completed.

Land for Redstone was donated by a homebuilder last year.

In addition, the bond money is being used to build three classrooms at Surrey Hills Elementary, where the district added several new teachers this year.

Those new classrooms, which are needed because of growth in the northern part of the district, should be ready when school starts next year.

Meanwhile, Simeroth said other projects have been completed over the summer with several buildings receiving new paint, carpeting and furniture.

More importantly, he said, the district is getting new textbooks for math, and students in both the middle and high schools will receive Chromebooks to use during class.

All of those projects were funded through bond money.

The use of bond money for those projects has enabled the district to pay its employees higher salaries than the state mandates, which also helps to draw some of the best teachers in the state to Yukon.

For the second year in a row, Yukon has one of 12 finalists for State Teacher of the Year.

Rebecca Oglesby is an art teacher at Ranchwood Elementary.

The winner will be named at Oklahoma State Fair in September.

Meanwhile, the district also is welcoming a new food service vendor — Sodexo.

The company was selected in May and began providing services in July.

Simeroth said the change will not impact student meal prices.

“It is a big company with so many resources,” Simeroth said.

The superintendent said the district expects to see a larger share of the nutrition program’s revenue.

Those funds can only be used for food services, but it will help fund the cost of equipment for the new school, Simeroth said.

Another major change involves school security.

Simeroth said every school in the district now has added security at the entrances where visitors must sign-in and then be “buzzed” into the building. Most require visitors to have some type of identification, as well.

In addition, the district is adding seven private security personnel to assist the district’s school resource officers.They will be based at the high school, middle school and intermediate schools. In addition, school resource officers will visit the elementary schools on a regular basis.

“We don’t think you can go overboard on security,” Simeroth said. “Schools are the safest places to be. They are still kids.”

Meanwhile, the district increased its budget for staffing by more than $1.5 million for next year, he said.

Teacher pay raises are expected to be considered by the school board after the teacher’s union votes on the proposed contract the first days of school.

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