Going To School At The Mall

Monday, June 25th 2007, 9:00 pm
By: News On 6

School in a shopping mall is coming to Tulsa. It's a new alternative education program, championed by Tulsa Public School's new superintendent. News On 6 education reporter Ashli Sims reports the goal is to get dropouts on the road to a diploma.

Starting next fall the mall won't just be a place to shop and hang out, but the home of a new school.

"Tulsa Learning Academy, which will open at Promenade Mall, will be one of the top programs I believe in the next two or three years," said Tulsa Public Schools superintendent Dr. Michael Zolkoski.

Superintendent Dr. Michael Zolkoski speaks from experience. He's had learning academies at two of his past districts. Rolling Oaks Mall in San Antonio, Texas is home to Judson Learning Academy, the first school in the mall. The program is aimed at juniors or seniors who have dropped out to help take care of family, children or to work full-time.

"This is only four hours and 15 minutes a day, so they come in and get their work done,” Zolkoski said. “They can actually have a job and come in and get their work done."

The academy has full-time teachers, but also offers online courses that allow students to go at their own pace.

"You have to work here; you can't just come here and goof off. You have to work and the teachers work with you to get you to graduate,” said Judson Academy student Nicole Krueger. “It's not a goof-off school. It's a school so you can graduate and go into the real world."

Judson's program's website says it has graduated more than 800 students.

"It's a great program for those kids who slip through and give up. They quit. They don't finish high school, and they don't lack much to finish," said Tulsa Learning Academy Principal Jean Keeton.

So how does the Judson Learning Academy measure up? According to the Texas Education Agency less than 40% of Judson Learning Academy students passed all of the Texas state exams, last year. But it also reports no dropouts in the 2004-2005 school year, and a 100% graduation rate. That's a lot of diplomas, and that's the kind of results, TPS hopes to duplicate.

"We're probably going to save hopefully 80 to 100 students a year," Zolkoski said.

In Texas the program comes with a pretty heft price tag, $5,100 dollars per student.

Tulsa's Learning Academy would be the 22nd school in a mall.

Watch the video: Mall School