Tulsa Public Schools Mulls Moving Successful Middle School

Thursday, December 8th 2011, 11:47 pm
By: News On 6

The Tulsa school district needs to balance its budget, so it's considering selling Thoreau Demonstration Academy and moving its magnet program to a new home.

An information meeting was held Thursday evening at the school to discuss possibly moving the program to a nearby school.

Students and parents say the district wouldn't just be selling a building, they could lose a part of what makes their successful school great.

Outside the school, students decided to exercise their first amendment right by chanting, "heck no, we won't go! Heck no, we won't go!"

Madison Smith, 14, won't even be attending Thoreau next year. But that's not stopping her from taking a stand.

"The reason I'm out here doing this is because I have a four-year-old brother and a nine-year-old sister, and they both need to come through here. I don't want the school to get moved," she said.

TPS Superintendent Doctor Keith Ballard is considering putting Thoreau's building up for sale and moving the program to Wilson Middle School.

One of the reasons: Thoreau sits on a potentially valuable piece of property.

"High appraisal, low bond obligation. Wilson can be an attractive opportunity to so we should consider that option," Ballard said.

Wilson closed last school year, when the district consolidated schools to save millions. But the savings haven't fully materialized, because so far the district has only sold one. And the superintendent says the budget still isn't balanced.

04/26/2011 Related Story: Community Praises, Criticizes Tulsa Public Schools Consolidation Proposal

"I was just stunned. Is TPS in the real estate business or the education business?" Asked on parent.

Some parents gathered at the meeting Thursday night say finances shouldn't be the consideration. They say their building was created with Thoreau's unique demonstration program in mind. And selling off the bricks and mortar could dismantle the program's success.

The district says it would be willing to invest $1.5 million in Wilson to retrofit it for Thoreau's needs. That money would come from the possible sale of Fulton to private school Town and Country.

The district could still net more than $2-million in bond dollars from that deal. The superintendent says no final decision has been made yet.