Four Tulsa elementary schools recommended for closure, consolidation

TPS superintendent Deborah Gist speaks out about possible closing schools

TULSA, Okla. — Quick Facts:

  • Tulsa Public Schools is suggesting the closure or consolidation of four of its elementary schools amid an upcoming budget redesign.
  • District officials confirmed that Mark Twain, Jones, Wright, and Grimes elementary schools are being recommended to close.
  • Memorial, Central and Rogers junior high schools also being recommended to become 6th-8th grade middle schools.
  • The proposed changes would begin with the 2020-2021 school year.
  • Superintendent Deborah Gist plans to make the recommendations to the school board in January.
  • Gist held a press conference Wednesday to talk in more detail about the proposal.
  • She said closing the schools will save $2-$3 million per year.
  • This is a developing story. Check back for more details.
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FOX23 obtained this letter sent to district staff Tuesday:

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Dear team,

 

As we work to shape a viable and sustainable future for our district, we have identified some possible changes to our family of schools that could result in grade reconfigurations, school closures, and consolidations of school communities.

 

It is my intention to recommend that Memorial Junior High School, Central Junior High School, and Rogers Junior High School become 6th-8th grade middle schools in the 2020-2021 school year.

 

I also plan to recommend the closures of Grimes, Jones, and Wright elementary schools as well as the consolidation of Mark Twain Elementary School into Wayman Tisdale Fine Arts Academy.

 

I plan to submit these recommendations to our Board of Education in January 2020. If these recommendations are approved by our Board, beginning in the 2020-2021 school year:

 

  • Students in pre-kindergarten through 5th grade at Mark Twain would move to Wayman Tisdale;
  • Students currently enrolled at Jones, Grimes, and Wright would move to other nearby neighborhood schools;
  • Rogers and Central would become 6th-12th grade campuses;
  • Memorial Junior High would become a 6th-8th grade middle school;
  • 6th grade at Burroughs, Emerson, Academy Central, and Tisdale would move to Central;
  • 6th grade at Key, Marshall, and Salk would move to Memorial;
  • Rising 6th graders at Sequoyah would have preference at Rogers or attend Monroe as their neighborhood school; and
  • Rising 6th graders at Kendall-Whittier Elementary would have preference at Rogers.

 

The recommendations related to Memorial, Central, and Rogers are a continuation of our ongoing work to create consistency in grade configurations across the district, making it easier for families to navigate through our system. We know from research and experience that minimizing transitions supports strong academic performance and helps foster meaningful relationships with teachers and peers. Additionally, in a middle school setting, students will have expanded access to developmentally appropriate activities, spaces, and experiences. It is our intention that by the 2021-2022 school year, students at Tulsa Public Schools would experience no more than two transitions - from 5th to 6th grade and from 8th to 9th grade.

 

We are also considering the possibility of creating a pre-kindergarten through 8th grade campus in the Memorial, Hale, and East Central neighborhoods. This is a model that has proven successful in school districts throughout the country, and we are working to consider this model for our district.

 

The recommendation to close Grimes, Jones, and Wright elementary schools and consolidate Mark Twain into Wayman Tisdale was an extraordinarily difficult decision to make. I am proud of the work our teams are doing serve their students and families.

 

We put a great deal of thought and care into our analysis of all district schools to understand where there might be opportunities to both improve the ways that we’re using our buildings and spaces and potentially enhance the learning experiences of our students. We use our Portfolio Guiding Principles to inform decisions about school closures and consolidations:

 

  • We will ensure that all students have access to exceptional learning experiences;
  • We will ensure that all students have equitable opportunity to access specialized programs;
  • We will ensure that all teachers and school leaders experience exceptional conditions and supports; and
  • We will ensure fiscally responsible investments in educational programs and facilities.

 

We also consider factors such as historical, current, and projected enrollment; current programmatic offerings; building utilization rates; building condition and design; needs of the surrounding community; and access to other district schools.

 

When a school closes, students are assigned to a new nearby neighborhood school. We also provide support for families who wish to consider other school options in the district. These transitions can be challenging, so when feasible, we work with families to help make sure that students are able to attend the same school with their close friends or relatives.

 

If these changes were to go into effect, our Talent Management team would work one-on-one with affected teachers to assist them with finding other opportunities in the district for which they are qualified. We always need talented teachers at Tulsa Public Schools, and we have every reason to believe that every teacher at these schools would find a new home in the district.

 

It is important to know that no decisions have been made. I will present my recommendations to the Board in early January. As part of the Board’s consideration of any proposed changes for the 2020-2021 school year, there will be opportunities for community members to share their feedback with Board members. In December and January, we will engage with families who could pending approval by our Board be affected by the potential recommendations.

 

This afternoon, we will share this information on our district and school websites, we will continue to share updates online over the coming weeks.

 

Thank you for all that you do for Tulsa teachers, students, and families.

 

Best,

 

Deborah

 

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