Downtown Tulsa School Could Open Enrollment To Commuters

Friday, January 2nd 2015, 6:30 pm

Tulsa Public Schools is considering open enrollment at one elementary school for children who have parents working nearby.

It's usually determined by the student's home address, but this school would be for downtown commuters.

Tulsa's Emerson Elementary has suddenly become a prime location for a new idea in Tulsa Public Schools, and in this case, location is everything.

For over 100 years, Emerson Elementary has been connected to Tulsa's downtown; it's just nine blocks north of the very center of downtown.

Before now, that's not meant anything to parents who commute and would like to have their children in a nearby school, but Emerson - an open concept school on the inside - could soon open its doors to hundreds of new students, the children of downtown commuters.

"We're very excited about any opportunity we can provide not just for our kids, but for the kids of those commuters downtown, and we welcome those students," said Emerson Principal, Tammy States.

States said the school building is big enough for twice as many students as they have enrolled.

As the population has shifted away from the neighborhood, it's left them plenty of room to try new ideas.

The school already has a massive library and computer lab, and big, open classrooms. There are 300 students in classes there now, but there's room for 600.

"The size, there's no limitation. We could put a lot more kids in here than we do now," States said.

Emerson is just a few blocks north of downtown on Boston Avenue.

The current attendance area for the school includes downtown, but that's only for children who live there.

If the open enrollment plan goes forward, Emerson would be a new option for parents who work downtown.

The concept to open enrollment would coincide with a scheduled renovation of the building and small expansion to accommodate more students and the modern technology the schools are using.

It would require expanding before and after school programs to work around the different schedules of downtown workers.

The principal believes the options created when more students come in would help expand offerings for the students they already have.

"The opportunity to become a downtown school, I hope it opens up the chance to have those fine arts programs like they used to," said States.

The transformation depends on passage of the bond issue, but if that happens, Emerson would become the first commuter school in Tulsa.

The bond issue goes to voters in March. If it's approved the transfer option could open up quickly.

The building renovation that will allow maximum capacity, would take a couple of years.