Pawhuska Junior High Closing Sends Students Back To Elementary
PAWHUSKA, Oklahoma - Pawhuska students returned to class Wednesday, and some were skipping junior high and going straight to high school, while others were back in elementary.
Wednesday was the first day of school in Pawhuska, and for the first time the junior high classrooms are cleared out because there are no more junior high students.
As the school day ended, kids poured out of Pawhuska Elementary, and in the mix were some seventh graders, like Serena Jeffers.
“We still get recess so I feel like I'm a little kid,” she said.
Traditionally, seventh and eighth grade students would be going to class in the junior high building, but that is now closed, even though the school's mission statement, “to prepare students for success in high school and beyond,” still hangs in the hall, and microscopes are still stacked in science class.
“It's like, you're getting ready for high school in junior high, and I feel like we're not getting ready for high school here,” Jeffers said.
Now, seventh graders are considered elementary students and eighth graders are going to class in the high school.
Pawhuska Superintendent, Dr. Landon Berry said, “It's just one of those situations where you had to make a tough call, and we had to make a tough call,”
Berry said restructuring was a cost-cutting measure. He said enrollment has declined over the past several years and so has state funding.
“I think it's just a situation where if the state would put some more money into schools, public schools, we probably wouldn't have even made this move,” Berry said.
Jeffers said it seems like the state has lost sight of the importance of education and the children it molds.
“Not good, I feel like they don't care about us,” she said.
The superintendent said he hopes shutting down the junior high is only temporary, but for now he said eliminating the position of a principal who took another job and cutting back on the high price to operate and maintain the junior high, could save the district $100,000.
That’s money, Berry said, will go back to what matters most, the students.
“Then we turned around, we put the money back into the classroom with the kids, back into the books, back into technology,” he said.
The superintendent said the district won't be completely closing the junior high; the building will still be used for things like testing.