Broken Arrow schools deal with runaway growth

Wednesday, August 17th 2005, 9:53 am
By: News On 6

Runaway growth in Broken Arrow has the school district struggling to keep up. Hundreds of new homes are springing up in the northeastern part of the city and it shows no signs of slowing down.

News on 6 reporter Ashli Sims explains how the district is fighting overcrowding.

Liberty Elementary at 44th and 209th East Avenue was supposed to free Broken Arrow Public Schools of some of its growing pains. Now the solution has become part of the problem. Liberty Elementary principal Karyne Gates: "the old saying about build it and they will come I think that’s happened out here."

Liberty finished last year with about 650 students, already slightly above predictions. This year, it's swelled to 760 students. And you just have to look across the playground to see why.

Broken Arrow School spokesman Keith Isbell: "houses everywhere that’s the main thing they've developed far faster than the most liberal of predictions." The lot once surrounded by fields is now flanked on three sides by new subdivisions. New homes are being built and empty lots have sign, after sign, after sign showing sold.

Karyne Gates: "well based upon the number of additions going in I would say we are going to continue to grow I don't see how we can avoid that." All the growth has literally pushed Liberty's boundaries. They've had to bring in three prefab buildings and are considering adding a fourth.

Karyne Gates says soon the school may need more permanent relief. "I think we're getting there pretty quickly you can add so many prefabs but you get to a point where the building itself is at capacity." Keith Isbell: "the long haul, it’s obvious we're going to need a new school."

Isbell says even if they got voter approval for another new school, it takes about 18 months to get it from idea to brick and mortar. "We've dealt with this in our history as a fast growing school district in the 70's we were averaging a classroom a week and so we have some history in that regard and a history of handling it in a good way."

With so many Liberty students, the principal says they have to start lunch at 11:15 AM to serve them all. And they're working to ease traffic problems in the afternoon when hundreds of parents come to pick up their students.