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By BWSTimes Staff
TULSA, Okla. — Amid a sea of black and brown faces in a packed cafetorium, the superintendent of Oklahoma’s second-largest school district, Deborah Gist received the most intriguing question:
Will Tulsa Public Schools provide transportation to the Board of Education meeting for Gilcrease Elementary School parents, a community experiencing economic challenges, to ensure their concerns are heard before the board’s final decision on whether to shutter their neighborhood public school building or not?
“I don’t think I’ve ever been asked such a question,” the superintendent stated in response. “I will check into it,” she added.
The heavily-weighted question undoubtedly speaks to the tremendous challenges that Gilcrease students and residents, surrounding this public-neighborhood school, face.
One of the teachers informed the BWSTimes that the majority of the students walk to school.
“The school building is deteriorating,” Gist said.
With a total cost of around one million dollars, TPS originally planned to use the bond money to replace the school’s air conditioning units.
Gist explained that the Board of Education would use the bond money to help renovate Monroe Demonstration Academy, the new McLain High School feeder middle school, which will have open enrollment and serve grades 6th through 8th.
The renovation of Monroe Demonstration Academy has been the subject of controversy because it comes at the expense of three school closures in a community that has experienced a pandemic of school closures since school integration.
The McLain 7th Grade Center, William Penn Elementary School, and Gilcrease Elementary School are the next line of public schools scheduled to close in north Tulsa.
Gist said, “Students will be bused to other nearby schools.”
Superintendent Gist purposes that the school board vote to relocate Gilcrease’s students, teachers, and staff to the smaller adjacent and occupied pre-K school building next door.
Gilcrease parents and staff, however, have concerns that the building will be too small and believe they’ll quickly outgrow the building.
The BWSTimes spoke to several Gilcrease staff members, and they expressed that they don’t want to leave their school.
Parents and some members of the North Tulsa Education Taskforce communicated that they had no desire to see Glicrease close.
Superintendent Gist did inform the room that the district would maintain the building while it’s unoccupied.
Some community members speculate that Gilcrease elementary is being cleared for a charter school.
Gist said that none of the public charter schools in the TPS family, schools that fall under the TPS’ charter sponsor, had inquired the district about occupying Gilcrease Elementary after the building is cleared.
No conversations of academic empowerment were discussed at this parent and community meeting.