Tulsa's New Vision Program Could Shut Down

Friday, January 2nd 2009, 9:26 pm
By: News On 6

By Ashli Sims, News On 6

TULSA, OK -- A new Tulsa alternative school New Vision could shut down, if it doesn't find a new home.

The pilot program opened last fall as an alternative for high school students with drug and alcohol problems. But time is running out on its current location and a possible new one has its potential new neighbors upset.

The school needs a new home, but some folks in Owen Park don't want it for a neighbor.

"This school is a jewel. This is one of the oldest elementary schools in the city of Tulsa," said Michael Simmons, Owen Park Resident.

Built in 1918, with its signature art deco details, Pershing Elementary is tucked into the middle of the Owen Park neighborhood and some residents are protective of their hidden jewel and don't like it's possible new assignment.

"And the proposed use that they've come up with is near the bottom of what they could or what others could do with the building," said Simmons.

Tulsa Public Schools is eyeing Pershing as a possible new home for New Vision Academy.

The alternative school is a small program that targets students with drug and alcohol problems. It was originally placed at Bell Annex, but outcry from that neighborhood led to it being moved to Fulton Learning Academy, then that neighborhood resisted.

TPS cut a deal with Fulton residents, promising them New Vision would only be there until the end of the semester.

If New Vision can't be relocated soon, it might not survive.

"It might not and that would be a shame and that would be a disservice to kids," said TPS Superintendent Dr. Keith Ballard.

Pershing was used as an alternative school before, housing Phoenix Academy and neighbors say crime in the area spiked.

"I myself had an altercation with a student who used the bussing service behind our house," said Dee Simmons.

TPS says Phoenix was for kids who had committed crimes, New Vision is not.

Dr. Ballard says there are 24 students enrolled right now and there have been no incidents, but he wants to sit down with Owen Park residents and talk about Pershing's future.

"And I don't know if I'll recommend it to the board. It just depends. I hope there's good turnout. I look forward to visiting with people and answering their questions and then we'll move on to the next step. The first step is to just talk," said Dr. Ballard.

The Simmons were hoping Pershing could be used as some sort of community center or a resource for the neighborhood's elderly population.

Dr. Ballard says it's possible to do both and his goal is to come up with something that meets the community's and the district's needs.

The open house will start at 11 a.m. Saturday at Pershing.