Ashli Sims, News On 6
TULSA, Oklahoma -- Tulsa Public Schools announced Tuesday it could close as many as 17 schools. The plans are far from final, but some are wondering what will happen to the buildings themselves, if the schools close.
All of the consolidation proposals call for Barnard Elementary to close its doors. If the students leave, some are concerned they leave a potential for blight behind.
A tattered flag, an overgrown yard, and boarded up windows. Pershing Elementary has seen better days.
"Sometimes we'd like to see it torn down and make a park right here," Paulette Schultz said.
Paulette Schultz has lived across the street from Pershing for 16 years. It hasn't been an elementary school since the 1970s. Over the years, it's been home to an alternative school, training facility and it's sat empty.
"The maintenance does go down on it, since the kids are not in there. Last year, I think it got mowed three times," Schultz said.
TPS is considering closing up to 17 schools in an effort to streamline the district and save millions.
There is life after school for some buildings. What used to be Central High School is now headquarters for PSO. And an old school building at 15th & Peoria is now the cornerstone of Cherry Street.
But most of the buildings slated to close this time are in the middle of neighborhoods.
"We will evaluate each piece of property that might come open and we will see what might be the best use for that," Dr. Keith Ballard, TPS Superintendent, said. "Absolutely some of the properties will be available for sale."
District leaders say some school sites could be held in reserve and others could be used to house charter schools.
Pershing is now home to TPS's police force, which Paulette Schultz says adds some extra security to the neighborhood. She says when it comes to former schools, a function, any function, is necessary.
"Definitely, do something with them. Outsource them if you need to bring them back into the communities. Do what you can with them," she said. "I know how important it is to keep places like this under control. Because if not it cost the community it cost the people itself."
TPS leaders say some community organizations have expressed interest in some of the buildings, if they're closed. But they say they will pick their buyers carefully, being sensitive to the fact that most of these buildings are in the middle of neighborhoods.
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3/29/2011 TPS Superintendent: District Spread Too Thin To Be Effective
3/29/2011 Tulsa Public Schools Could Close Up To 17 Schools