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Photograph by Nehemiah D. Frank

Published 01/07/2020 | Reading Time 1 min 16 sec

By BWSTimes Staff

On a Monday night, a small group of parents and educational advocates stood on the corner of New Haven and 31st in midtown shortly after sundown steps away from the Tulsa Public Schools’ (TPS) service center. 

The only light penetrating the growing darkness were the two local media cameras operated by local journalists fishing for a newsworthy story on the inevitable community’s reaction of possible school consolidations and closures.  

They gathered to protest half an hour ahead of the TPS school board meeting that addressed the future of possible school consolidations and closures to save the district $20 million.

Nevertheless, the budget redesign was recommended by TPS Superintendent Deborah Gist, along with her team, community members, and stakeholders who participated in a series of community work-sessions for the budget redesign at the beginning of the 2019 — 2020 school year.

Low enrollment and inadequate educational funding from the state have made running Oklahoma’s second-largest school district much difficult than previous decades.

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Recommendations include reductions to the district office, the closure of 3 to 4 TPS schools, changes to the staffing plan, and decreases in teacher professional development, as well as increased class sizes by one student.

There was no conversation on what decreases in teacher professional development included. 

If the Board approves the recommendations on Tuesday, January 21, 2020, at the 6:30 pm meeting, Grimes, Jones, and Wright Elementary schools face possible closure. Students attending these schools will be enrolled in nearby schools. Mark Twain Elementary school will be consolidated into Wayman Tisdale Fine Arts Academy.

TPS will have additional meetings with the affected families and staff as the district begins the planning phase of implementation, which would take place between March and June 2020.

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For the first time, none of the schools in north Tulsa are recommended for closure — a promise kept to the North Tulsa Education Task Force. Only a few school configurations: Burroughs, Emerson, Tisdale, and Academy Central (Greenwood Leadership Academy) Elementary schools would lose their 6th-grades to the new Central Middle School if approved, which would serve grades 6th through 8th. 

TPS’s goal is to create consistent grade configurations across its district; however, McClure Elementary school’s leadership is exploring the possibility of a PK through 8th-grade option for its students.

With the consolidated pupil funding, the district hopes to grow specialized programs in neighborhood schools such as language immersions as well as expanding its Montessori program. 

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