McLain Seventh Grade Academy Focuses On High School Preparedness

Wednesday, August 21st 2013, 7:59 pm
By: Emory Bryan

When classes start at Tulsa Public Schools on Thursday, what used to a junior high school last year will be divided into two campuses.

Eighth graders will attend McLain Junior High, and seventh graders will attend a new McLain seventh-grade academy.

Last year, both grades were in one, very overcrowded building; this year they're in two.

The principal said it's not just a space issue. The district wanted to focus resources on this single group before they went into McLain's upper grades.

There aren't many principals with as much on her shoulders as Tarsha Guillory.

She's an experienced administrator, but a first time principal, leading the new McLain Seventh Grade Academy.

The new school, with just a single grade, is a new effort to improve learning for children feeding into McLain High School.

"Here we'll have the flexibility to meet their social needs and academic needs without the distractions of older kids and trying to fit in with older kids, without some of the misbehavior that might be influenced by the older kids," Guillory said.

TPS will keep eighth graders at McLain Junior High, with a single principal for the campus that includes McLain High School.

The new seventh-grade academy is the former Alcott Elementary that was closed during consolidation.

Teacher Jessica Lacson is one of only three McLain junior high teachers re-hired for jobs at the new school.

"Having a whole new building, I feel like it's a fresh start from last year, and my expectations are high, potentially even higher because we have the potential to make it a whole new school," Lacson said.

Part of the transition was remaking the school into something suitable for older students, and cleaning it up after two years of use as a warehouse for surplus school supplies.

That work continues, but the principal is confident everything important will be done in time.

"I am confident the community wants the success of this school, and I'm confident we'll get the resources we need," Guillory said. "I don't see us having a problem at all helping our kids meet their needs."

The district is expecting about 275 children at this school.

It frees up space in the other building for the eighth grade, which was an unusually large class last year.