Tulsa School Board Votes To Close The District's Newcomer International School

Wednesday, June 16th 2010, 7:20 pm
By: News On 6

By Ashli Sims, The News On 6

TULSA, OK -- Tulsa Public Schools voted Wednesday night to shut down a school dedicated to educating non-English speaking students.

More and more parents are deciding not to send their students to the special program at Newcomer Elementary at 10908 East 5th Street, choosing traditional neighborhood schools instead.

"This is not an easy decision, any time to close a school or program," said Brian Hunt, a Tulsa School Board Member.  "But I believe we're at a point where the customers are telling us that they've chosen other places."

Newcomer International School opened back in 2002 when Tulsa started to see its Hispanic population climb. The school focused on English language learners.

Currently, Tulsa Public Schools teaches about 2,700 English language learners and less than half of 1% of them attend Newcomer. The district says about 113 students attended Newcomer last year.

"We're pretty confident about what's going on," said Millard House, Tulsa Public Schools Associate Superintendent. "But there are positive things going on at Newcomer. There are positive things going on in our neighborhood schools also."

The district says of the 15 schools with about the same students as Newcomer, 12 of them out-perform the international school.

But Newcomer parents say it should be about more than just test scores.  They say it should be about support, and putting kids who can't understand English into a classroom where only English is spoken will have a long term impact on their education.

"Then it's going to feel neglected, frustrated and that can come to anger," said Marcelino Leal, a parent.  "And later on that can translate into something else, that nobody in this society wants."

House says the decision to close the school is not a financial decision.

Current Newcomer students and teachers will be reassigned to neighborhood schools. The school district is considering putting an early childhood education center in the building.