Tulsa Lighthouse Charter School Celebrates Grand Opening

Thursday, August 16th 2012, 7:01 pm
By: Emory Bryan

A new elementary school opened this week in Tulsa, with students drawn largely from students around the former Greeley Elementary school that was closed by TPS.

Thursday was the third day of classes for the children at Lighthouse Academy. It's a new elementary charter school in Tulsa, and the first one using the "lighthouse" plan, where some facet of the arts is the mechanism for teaching.

Even learning each other's names is turned into a chant, white the founder of the schools says is proven to help children remember.

"It's not just the song or the chant, it's what that's communicating to children," founder Mike Ronan said. "It invigorates them, it engages them, it teaches them things."

1/16/2012 Related Story: North Tulsa Charter School Could Get Board Approval Tuesday

At a grand opening, that musical style of learning came through again and again.

It's used to a lesser extent in regular public schools, but here it's literally a part of every subject.

Second grade teacher Erin Davis helped start the Tulsa Lighthouse Academy.

She taught the last three years at Celia Clinton, but says she wanted to be a part of this innovative approach.

"There's just been a lot of research done that shows kids retain things better if they learn it through an arts format, and that's an adjustment for me, but I'm getting the hang of it. And the kids seem to be responding well," Davis said.

Lighthouse Academy is kindergarten through 4th grade now, with plans to add an upper grade each year.

As a charter school, it's publicly funded on less per student than what the other schools get, and pays rent to use the building.

More than 500 families applied for the 280 slots, which were awarded in a lottery.

"This program is not more expensive, because we teach our teachers how to use arts infusion as part of their instructional techniques, and that's what makes what we do possible with fewer dollars than Tulsa Public Schools or any district where we work," Davis said.

Another part of the strategy is a longer school day, going until 4 p.m.

Over a school year, that's three weeks of extra teaching beyond the Tulsa Public schools schedule.