TULSA, Oklahoma -- After several months of research and dozens of meetings and five different proposals, a consolidation plan is in place at Tulsa Public Schools.
In a 5-2 vote, the Tulsa Public School Board approved the Superintendent Dr. Keith Ballard's plan to close more than a dozen schools Monday night.
"What happened this evening [Monday] is in the best interest of Tulsa Public Schools, is in the best interest of our students," Ballard told News On 6 education reporter Ashli Sims after the meeting.
The nearly two-hour discussion included pleas from parents and advocates who questioned why their school was slated to close. Others questioned if the sweeping proposal was really about education, or real estate.
"I think that they did a disservice to the community," Regina Goodwin said. "It's the advent of what's going to become the privatization of schools."
"It is absolutely about students and not about real estate," Ballard said. "It is about being more efficient."
Some board members also expressed their concern.
"I am not convinced that the closing of schools is equitable throughout the district," Board member Oma Jean Copeland said. "Five million, although this is a lot of money saved, does not substantiate the closing, redistricting and displacing of our children."
Ballard, who has called the process "long overdue," modified his proposal last week. The plan calls for more than a dozen schools to close, eliminating 6,000 empty seats and shaving about $5 million annually from the budget.
Schools that will close or be home to a different program next year include:
Some of these schools will have new life next year, becoming new homes to a different program:
The plan will shake-up the make-up of Tulsa schools with sixth graders staying in elementary school and some 7th and 8th graders attending high school.
The plans also feature a few new programs, including re-inventing Rogers High School as an early college program, turning Gilcrease elementary school into a community school, and reopening Monroe with a language immersion program.
"I think it's a great time for TPS," Ballard said.
Plenty of questions still remain, like how transfers and transportation will be affected. Ballard said the board was given a "41-page implementation" plan after the meeting detailing the review.
Ballard addressed transportation issues, saying the district may be willing to waive some of the distance requirements for picking up students.