Emily Baucum, News On 6
TULSA, Oklahoma -- More than 42,000 Tulsa students are headed back to school Monday. Beyond the usual jitters of the first day, many families will be navigating sweeping changes in the Tulsa Public Schools.
"In my tenure with the district, I've seen a lot of changes. I don't think I've seen one as big as this one's going to be, but I've seen a lot of changes," said Terry Evans, TPS route operation manager.
The Project Schoolhouse consolidation plan moved 450 teachers and 7,200 students to new buildings. Fourteen schools closed. As a result, nine schools will have too many students so the district is using 14 double-wide trailers as classrooms.
"Everybody was kind of upset," said teacher Sharon Hammons, "but life goes on."
TPS has virtually eliminated its middle schools. Sixth graders will stay in elementary school.
A few middle schools were reinvented as elementary schools and some junior high students will actually attend class on high school campuses.
Students and teachers alike were notified the same way if their school changed.
"Well, I received a letter in the mail telling me what school I was going to be going to," Hammons said.
One school slated to close had a reversal of fortune. Grimes Elementary is staying open—for now. It will be combined with Nimitz Middle School at a later date.
"For our students, there would be no trade up if they went to another school," said Lisa Morgan, Grimes PTA president. "What we offer is the best."
TPS Deputy Superintendent Millard House said, "There were too many physical renovations required to the Nimitz building to accommodate elementary age students."
Another change affects thousands of families: All elementary and middle school students will be required to wear uniforms.
"What we're suggesting for the new schools which were not in uniforms last year is that parents buy a white plain polo shirt and khaki bottoms, pants or shorts and no cargo pants," said TPS's Paula Wood.
TPS added more than a dozen bus routes and some pick-up times have shifted to correspond to earlier school start times.
The district's website explains the new routes and also lists when the first bell will ring at each school.
Despite all the changes, teachers are confident that after a few days, everything will feel normal.
"Because kids – I love kids and kids are going to be there and I'm here for the kids," Hammons said.