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Project School House

KWGS News File Photo
Dr. Keith Ballard announces his version of Project School House

By KWGS News

Tulsa, OK – Tulsa Public Schools today unveiled Project Schoolhouse, an aggressive plan to realign the number of schools in the district with enrollment numbers that have declined in recent years, and to restore equity to a system with great disparities in curriculum and student access. With the final delivery of Project Schoolhouse, the proposal will be the subject of a Board of Education public hearing next Tues., April 26 at 6 p.m., with a planned board vote scheduled for May 2 at Eisenhower International School, 2819 South New Haven, Tulsa, Oklahoma.

"Parents, educators and the Tulsa community have spoken loud and clear, and TPS has listened," said Superintendent Keith Ballard. "We've hosted numerous public forums and rolled out three surveys to date. From our conversations and the data gathered, we know that 52 percent of educators and 41 percent of parents say that TPS programming is inequitable.' While Project Schoolhouse has its roots in cutting costs to counter declining state funding, we cannot let these inequities at TPS continue. We have the opportunity to improve academic results at all of our schools. It is our mission to ensure that all students have access to fun, challenging and rigorous programming. Please mark this date in your calendar. You will look back on it as the day we envisioned a new future for the children of Tulsa Public Schools."

Project Schoolhouse in its final form is the culmination of seven months of exhaustive study and public conversation to determine the best plan possible. "It was never our intention that we would go strictly with either Plan A, B or C," said Ballard, referring to the initial plans put forth for public discussion, which had been developed by the three Project Schoolhouse committees.

"We wanted the best elements from each of the plans, and we knew parents and concerned Tulsans would generate new ideas for consideration. Oftentimes, the public debate was heated, but it took impassioned parents and members of the community coming forward to sharpen Project Schoolhouse into the plan we have today. We are sensitive to parent concerns and public comments, and have come up with a plan that is fair and equitable, and evenly distributed across the district."

Highlights of Project Schoolhouse include:

In general, a consistent structure is established (with some exceptions):
PK-6 7th & 8th Grade Junior High High School (grades 9-12)
Wherever feasible the junior high grades will be embedded within the high school building, but the students will be insulated from the grades 9-12
The creation of Rogers Lottery Magnet School
Current magnet schools remain intact - no closures or relocations
No high school closures are proposed
The closure of 11 elementary schools (Addams, Alcott, Barnard, Bryant, Cherokee, Chouteau, Grimes, Jones, Phillips, Roosevelt and Sandburg). The plan also recommends the closure of two middle schools (Cleveland and Wilson) and the relocation of the Early Childhood Development Center from the Bunche building to the Houston building. It also calls for Met Franklin and Met Lombard to be relocated to the Bryant building, with the Franklin and Lombard buildings closed

Central High School feeder pattern (changes):
Roosevelt Elementary School closed
Chouteau Elementary School closed, with students and programming relocated to the Madison building
Academy Central, Burroughs, Emerson, Madison (renamed as Chouteau), Mark Twain and Burroughs buildings converted to PK-6
Central High School becomes Central Junior High and houses grades 7 & 8 and Central High School (grades 9-12)
Boundaries changed for three elementary schools: Academy Central, Madison and Mark Twain
East Central High School feeder pattern (changes):
Sandburg Elementary School closed
Columbus, Cooper, Disney, Kerr, Lewis & Clark, Mitchell and Peary buildings converted to PK-6
Foster is renamed East Central Junior High and houses grades 7 & 8
East Central High School (grades 9-12)
Boundaries changed for seven schools: Columbus, Cooper, Disney, Foster, Kerr, Lewis & Clark and Peary
Edison High School feeder pattern (changes):
Phillips and Barnard elementary schools closed, with students redistributed
Eliot, Lanier, Lee, Patrick Henry and Wright remain PK-5
Edison Junior High (grades 6-8) and Edison High School (grades 9-12)
Boundaries changed for Edison, Eliot, Patrick Henry, Lanier, Lee and Wright
Hale High School feeder pattern (changes):
Jones Elementary School closed and re-opened as an Early Childhood Development Center, with students redistributed
Grades PK-6: Bell, Fulton, Hoover, Lindbergh, MacArthur, McKinley, Owen and Skelly converted to PK-6.
Fulton Learning Academy re-opened as Fulton Elementary School with grades PK-6
Hamilton Middle School reconfigured as PK-6, with students transferred to Hale Junior High
Hale Junior High established and houses grades 7 & 8 (formerly Whitney Middle School)
Hale High School (grades 9-12)
Boundaries changed for Bell, Fulton, Hale Junior High (formerly Whitney), Hale High School, Hamilton, Hoover, Lindbergh, MacArthur, Owen and Skelly

McLain High School feeder pattern (changes):
Alcott and Cherokee elementary schools closed, with students redistributed
Anderson, Celia Clinton, Gilcrease, Greeley, Hawthorne, Jackson, Penn, Springdale and Whitman converted to PK-6
McLain becomes McLain Junior High (grades 7 & 8) and McLain High School (grades 9-12)
Other notable changes:
Gilcrease PK-6 will become a "community school" in fall 2011
In fall 2011, reopen Monroe School as a K-8 school to begin a language immersion program and a separate Pre-K Mayo/6th Grade Thoreau school model. Programs will expand with community input
Houston receives the new Early Childhood Program from Bunche
Boundary changes for Anderson, Celia Clinton, Gilcrease, Hawthorne, McLain Junior High and High School, Penn and Springdale
Memorial High School feeder pattern (changes):
Grimes Elementary School closed, with students and programming relocated to the Nimitz building
Carnegie, Grissom, Key, Marshall, McClure, Nimitz and Salk converted to PK-6
Byrd Middle School is renamed as Memorial Junior High and houses grades 7 & 8
Memorial High School (grades 9-12)
No boundary changes
Rogers High School Lottery Magnet created, giving students the opportunity to earn a high school diploma and an Associate's degree.
Bryant, Cleveland and Wilson schools closed, eliminating 2,184 seats, with students redistributed
Kendall Whittier and Sequoyah converted to PK-6
Grades 7-12: Rogers Lottery Magnet School
Rogers 2011-12 students currently in grades 9-11 reassigned to other high schools
Kendall Whittier and Sequoyah elementary schools students will be eligible to attend Rogers, as well as all students in the district who are selected through a lottery process
Rogers students will commit to a program in grades 9-12 that expects participation in concurrent courses for college credit
Rogers Lottery Magnet School would be phased in, with grades 7-9 introduced in school year 2011-12, with 11th grade added in school year 2012-13 and 12th grade in 2013-14. 6th grade Wilson Middle Years Program students will also attend Rogers the first year
Some qualifying 10th grade students will be accepted by application in year 2011-12
Boundaries changed for Kendall Whittier Elementary School and Rogers
Webster High School feeder pattern (changes):
Addams Elementary School closed, eliminating 352 seats, with students redistributed
Eugene Field, Park, Remington and Robertson converted to PK-6
Clinton Middle School is renamed Webster Junior High and houses grades 7 & 8
Webster High School (grades 9-12)
Boundaries changed for Eugene Field, Park, Remington and Robertson
Unassigned Attendance Area Schools:
Six schools remain with their current grade configurations unchanged, and unassigned with regard to high school feeder pattern: Eisenhower (PK-5); Mayo (PK-5) and Zarrow (PK-5) elementary schools; Carver (6-8) and Thoreau (6-8) middle schools; and Washington High School (9-12)
Language immersion programming and the Mayo-Thoreau programming will be studied for one year district-wide
Early Childhood Development Centers
ECDC Bunche programming would be relocated to Houston Early Childhood Center (formerly Houston Elementary School)
Four early childhood centers created: Houston, Jones, Porter and Reed Early Childhood Development Centers
Porter scheduled to open February 2012
Alternative education programs
Met Franklin and Met Lombard relocated to Bryant building
Franklin and Lombard buildings closed

For a complete set of handouts and charts illustrating changes in each of the high school feeder districts, please visit www.tulsaschools.org.

"Parents and educators told us they care about three things: electives, quality of education and safety," said Ballard. "We used that, and other feedback, to guide us in our decision-making, and I am proud of the overall structure that we have settled upon in our final recommendation.

"We knew from looking at the transfer data that 71 percent of parents made a change for their child due to better opportunities at the transfer school, and that 68 percent were dissatisfied with the quality of education at their neighborhood school. That confirmed for me the real culprit, and if we fix the quality issue at all of our schools, parents won't want to transfer their children away from neighborhood schools. While we are not doing away with open transfers,' by taking some of the excess capacity out of the system, I recognize we are effectively placing some limits on transfers, but we are having to make a decision that is in the best interests of the entire TPS system."

Approximately 6,000 seats would be eliminated with the 14 school closures, and annual savings are projected to be close to $5 million, much of which will be reinvested in new enrichment offerings and expanded curriculum. Ballard said the savings exceed the cost of the additional programming, resulting in a net savings to Tulsa Public Schools. As many of the Project Schoolhouse actions would likely be phased in, savings would not likely occur until June 1, 2012.

"We have already formed a committee to identify the Trade-Ups that we can introduce into the elementary schools, especially ones where we can ramp up quickly," said Ballard. "Associate Superintendent for Elementary Schools Millard House is heading up a committee that is already investigating opportunities, and will make recommendations in the coming weeks. We will do the same thing with middle schools and high schools, as we seek to make our district more equitable."

Such programming could include: access to art, band, orchestra, drama, dance, speech and debate, athletics and more after-school extracurricular activities; and the development of additional community schools. (See the complete list of "Trade-Ups" in the Project Schoolhouse section of the TPS website at http://www8.tulsaschools.org/4_About_District/project_sh_proposals.asp).

"I am grateful to the Board of Education, our three working committees - the Blue Sky Group, the Advisory Council and the Project Team - and the entire staff at TPS for being so patient and so brave," said Ballard. "Project Schoolhouse has been an exhaustive process, but we knew when we started out that it was the right thing to do. We knew it wasn't the easiest path we could take, or others before us would have stepped up long ago. Our capacity issues at TPS weren't created in a day, and they won't be fixed overnight, but we have an excellent plan and a fair plan. Now is the time for us to do the responsible thing for the children of Tulsa and implement the changes recommended in Project Schoolhouse."

Ballard has said that Project Schoolhouse will become "institutionalized," and the process will be incorporated into the everyday workings at TPS. He expects that the Office of Accountability will ultimately be responsible for monitoring school capacities on an annual basis so changes can be made to prevent the inefficiencies and under-capacity issues that have crept into the system over time. "Going forward, this process will help us to ensure that our students are getting the best educational experience possible, and that they are college and career-ready."

The Board of Education public hearing for Project Schoolhouse is scheduled on Tuesday, April 26, 2011, at 6 p.m. in the Gymnasium/Auditorium, ground floor level, at Eisenhower International School, 2819 South New Haven, Tulsa, Oklahoma. The board is expected to vote on Project Schoolhouse on Tues., May 2.

Parents who have questions related to Project Schoolhouse may call the Project Schoolhouse Hotline at (918) 746-6456. It will be operational from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily, Monday through Friday, effective immediately. Responders are available in English and Spanish.

Please visit the TPS website at www.tulsaschools.org for additional information and updates related to Tulsa Project Schoolhouse.