Ashli Sims, News On 6

TULSA, Oklahoma --  After months of meetings, forums, and surveys, Tulsa Public Schools' Superintendent finally weighed in with his recommendations for consolidation.

Superintendent Dr. Keith Ballard formally announced his final Project Schoolhouse proposal Friday morning, but News On 6 obtained an early copy of the plan.

After attending several forums and meetings to discuss district consolidation, Ballard called the process an "emotional issue" and said Tulsa parents have voiced that they want "quality" and "equality" in their child's education.

Ballard's final plan would close 14 schools, re-open two, eliminate approximately 6,000 empty seats and shave about $5 million from the budget.

Under Ballard's proposal, 12 elementary schools and 2 middle schools would close:

  • Addams Elementary School
  • Alcott Elementary School
  • Barnard Elementary School
  • Bryant Elementary School
  • Cherokee Elementary School
  • *Chouteau Elementary School (moved to Madison)
  • *Grimes Elementary School (moved to Nimitz)
  • Houston Elementary School
  • Jones Elementary School
  • Phillips Elementary School
  • Roosevelt Elementary School
  • Sandburg Elementary School
  • Cleveland Middle School
  • Wilson Middle School

[See a map of the listed schools below]

The proposal also called for Houston Elementary to close as a neighborhood school and become the new home for the Bunche Early Childhood Center. Two alternative schools, Met Franklin and Met Lombard would relocate to the Bryant building.

Ballard's plan does not call for any of the district's nine high schools to shut down.

It does call for Rogers High School to be reinvented as the Rogers Lottery Magnet School, featuring an early college program that would allow students to graduate high school with an associate's degree. None of the district's current magnet programs would be affected, under Ballard's plan.

Roosevelt Elementary is new to the list of schools slated to be shutdown. It was not closed under any of the three previously released plans.

Two schools, Burroughs Elementary and Walt Whitman Elementary, would have closed under all three of the old proposals, but they will now stay open, under Ballard's recommendation

Another idea in Ballard's proposal, but not included in previous plans, is returning Fulton Learning Academy to a functioning, neighborhood elementary school. Fulton is currently the center of the district's professional development activities.

Ballard said Thursday night that Tulsa Public Schools has a "6th grade problem." And he vowed to follow what he called a national trend to move away from stand alone 6th-8th grade middle schools.

To that end, several middle schools, including Nimitz, Lewis and Clark, Madison, Hamilton and Gilcrease will become Pre-kindergarten through 6th grade schools. Monroe Middle School, which was closed back in 2007 for poor test scores, will reopen as a kindergarten- 8th grade school.

The new Monroe will include a language immersion program and a separate program that will model the Mayo and Thoreau Demonstration Academies.

Chouteau Elementary's programs and students will be moved to Madison's building, which will take the Chouteau name. Grimes' programs and students would move next door to Nimitz Middle School.

Ballard followed through on his ideas about shaking up grade configurations throughout the district. Most elementary schools would keep their 6th graders. The only exceptions are Eisenhower, Mayo, Zarrow and the elementary schools in the Edison feeder pattern (Eliot, Lanier, Lee, Patrick Henry, and Wright) which will remain Pre-k through 5th grade.

Central, McLain and Rogers will now become 7th-12th grade schools, with 7th and 8th graders separated from the older students. To increase a connection between 7th and 8th graders and their future high schools, Ballard's plan calls for several middle schools to be renamed:

  • Foster Middle School → E Central Junior High
  • Whitney Middle School → Hale Junior High
  • Byrd Middle School → Memorial Junior High
  • Clinton Middle School → Webster Junior High

Ballard's plan would require boundary changes at 40 different schools. The Hale feeder pattern would have the most boundary changes, with four schools that used to funnel students into Rogers High School now being included in the pipeline to Hale.

Ballard's plan would also create four new early childhood centers. They would be at Houston, Jones, and newly reopened Porter and Reed.

Ballard's plan would only save about $5 million, which is the smallest amount of any of the previously released plans. He said much of that money would be "reinvested in new enrichment offerings and expanded curriculum," but it would still lead to a net savings for the district. Ballard has promised those savings or what he's dubbed "trade-ups" would mean more benefits for the remaining schools.

Those details are still being worked out, but the Ballard's recommendation does include a significant trade-up for Gilcrease Elementary. The proposal called for Gilcrease to become a "community school" in Fall of 2001. Community schools typically feature wrap-around services such as healthcare clinics, social workers, and after-school activities.

The Tulsa Board of Education has scheduled a public hearing for Project Schoolhouse next Tuesday, April 26, 2011, at 6 p.m. at Eisenhower International School.

The Board of Education is expected to make a final decision on May 2, 2011.

Tulsa Public Schools has created a hotline for anyone who has questions about Project Schoolhouse.  Parents can call   918-746-6546   from 8 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. 

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