There’s not much to look at as you drive up Interstate 44 from Texas into Oklahoma – until you get a bit south of Lawton. Then, surprise, surprise! Off to your right you spot the rounded tops of a cluster of copper colored Monolithic Domes, just sitting there in the middle of what appears to be nowhere. It isn’t. It’s Geronimo, Oklahoma, 0.53 square miles of Comanche County and home for almost 1000 residents.
The school district
Danny McCuiston is one of those residents, a native son and, since July 2002, superintendent of Geronimo ISD. Until recently Geronimo’s 345 students in grades K through 12 attended school in a structure built in 1938 as a WPA (Work Projects Administration) project. It was not only old but getting too small. Reason: somewhat unexpected but welcome growth.
Mr. McCuiston explained, “For years, Geronimo has set here on the southern border of Lawton and really not grown like a couple of our surrounding neighbors. And the irony of that is that Geronimo really has the best location for growth. However, it’s never had the infrastructure to grow and its most limiting factor has always been water.”
But that changed when Geronimo got a grant that enabled it to hook up to Lawton’s water system. Houses began getting built and people began moving in, especially military based in nearby Fort Sill.
That growth spurred a need and a desire for a larger, modern, safe and affordable school facility.
At a board meeting held to discuss growth, Mr. McCuiston distributed three pages he had printed off Monolithic’s website. “The board members were very open and interested,” he said. “And they wanted to know more.”
Mr. McCuiston called Monolithic, completed the online questionnaire and arranged visits for himself and various board members to Monolithic school buildings in Italy and Avalon, Texas and in Beggs, Oklahoma.
Geronimo then ordered three feasibility studies: a Monolithic Dome, a block building, and a red iron building. They considered construction costs, energy efficiency, usable space, safety and ongoing maintenance.
Mr. McCuiston said, “We wanted a plain-Jane building. We wanted the very lowest cost per square foot. At that time, Monolithic was within $5 per square foot of being the least costly building method that we could find. I showed the results to the board. We decided to present Monolithic in our bond issue.”
The school board knew that Geronimo’s residents had not passed a bond issue that would result in higher taxes since 1980. Now they were asking people to vote for a $5.7 million bond to construct something “weird.”
“We needed to get around the round concept,” Mr. McCuiston said. “We decided to tackle that right up front.”
He tacked architectural renderings of Monolithic Dome schools on a gymnasium wall. “My principal and I were right there for every ball game. People came in the door and there were the renderings. Everybody who came asked about them. I told them they were Monolithic Domes and that they were what we were thinking about and all the good points about them. My job was not to convince voters of what to go for but to present the information and let them decide.”
Two meetings followed. The first included only 20 handpicked residents and the board for a two-hour question-and-answer session on a Friday evening. The following Sunday afternoon, more than 100 came to the public forum at the auditorium.
Mr. McCuiston said, “Friday was a practice session for me. But I had not invited people who I thought would be 100% for it, but people who I felt would be influential on Sunday. And on that Sunday, they were scattered throughout the audience and suddenly I wasn’t the one answering questions. They were. That went on for about 90 minutes till one gentleman said it was obvious that we had done our homework. Others agreed.”
A whopping 73% of Geronimo’s voters voted for the bond. “We went from one of the lowest tax communities in the state of Oklahoma to one of the highest,” Mr. McCuiston said.
Geronimo accepted Architect Leland A. Gray’s design for a campus of five Monolithic Domes: two classroom domes, each with a diameter of 100 feet and a height of 25 feet with a 10-foot vertical wall; an administration dome and a cafeteria/commons dome, each 75′ × 19′ with a 10’ vertical wall; and a basketball gymnasium, 150′ × 37′ with a 10’ vertical wall.
On February 19, 2008, South Industries, Inc. began constructing the first classroom dome. In November 2009 they completed the gym, Geronimo’s fifth and final dome.
The first basketball game
In Geronimo, basketball reigns supreme. On Friday, November 13, 2009, people filed into their new Monolithic Dome gymnasium for the school’s first basketball game in its new gym. Geronimo’s Lady Bluejays took on the Lady Coyotes of Lone Wolf, Oklahoma. The Lady Bluejays won 36-31.