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Board chair: 'Historic day in OKCPS' as school closure plan is approved

Oklahoma City Public Schools is moving forward with a controversial plan to close 15 schools and reconfigure or relocate 17 others in time for the start of the 2019-20 school year.

The school board voted unanimously Monday night to approve the ambitious plan, which will shuffle thousands of students and hundreds of teachers in the coming weeks.

Chairwoman Paula Lewis called it a "historic day in OKCPS."

"Our goal is that this really brings equity and access to a world-class education to every single student in our district, regardless of their ZIP code," Lewis said following the 8-0 vote.

Superintendent Sean McDaniel praised the board for its patience "throughout this process," and said he's looking forward to "beginning the work of implementation."

"We know that this has been painful, and there's more of that until we actually get kids in school on Aug. 12 and they're running and playing and teachers are teaching and PTAs are formed," he said after the vote. "Until that happens there's still going to be an amount of uncertainty, and we feel that. But we believe we're on a great path and a great road ... for 45,000 kids."

The district will announce new assignments for every building principal as early as Tuesday, officials said.

Board member Carrie Coppernoll Jacobs said the the district is dealing with a problem that is "older than any of our students."

"All of us up here care about children," she said. "We're parents and grandparents; we're all affected directly by this plan. This has been tears and sleepless nights. I know our reading and math scores aren't we want them to be. And while students have challenges they bring with them to school every day, we must remember that we as adults are not giving them full opportunities they deserve."

For months, McDaniel has pledged to "reinvent" the district by aligning facilities and resources with instructional needs. To do that, the district will find other uses for closed buildings, convert six elementary schools into middle schools, relocate four charter schools and disband the district's mid-high model.

School boundaries, grade structures and feeder patterns also will change.

McDaniel has said the district will save an estimated $4 million annually in operational and staffing costs, money that will be reinvested as "trade-ups" that include full-time art, music and physical education teachers in every elementary school, fully functional science labs in every middle school and high school, smaller class sizes and more staff to support teachers. He's also promised more nurses and counselors along with dedicated science, math, tech and art programs.

"Although hard decisions have been made and there is still much to do, I am more confident than ever that this work is necessary to improve the health of the entire OKCPS system and to achieve our mission of preparing every student to graduate ready to fulfill their unique purpose in a healthy, vibrant community," McDaniel said.

About 150 people attended the special meeting at Northeast Academy, which will absorb high school students from Classen School of Advanced Studies and be known as Classen SAS High School in the coming year.

There was board conversation but no public comment.

"I think it's time, I really do," said Andrew James, a longtime volunteer at Martin Luther King Elementary in northeast Oklahoma City. "From '06, we've talked and talked about changes and nothing has happened. So now, I'm starting to see something happen. Maybe when these numbers get to where they say, the 600, 700, 800 kids in a building, the resources come. Because the resources are needed and the programs are needed for the kids."

Classen SAS parent Sarah Carnes, a former district teacher, expressed concerns about the plan.

"One of my children will go here in this building and it isn't 21st century ready," she said. "It's not ready to handle currently 700 students, so I have some reservations about them splitting from a facility that is currently a working building for a thousand kids."

McDaniel has said it will cost the district approximately $11 million to implement the plan, including $4.2 million for practice fields, uniforms, equipment and middle school locker rooms, $2.5 million to move staff, furniture and equipment, and nearly $3 million for improvements that include "fine arts remodels and other school remodels." Building and bond funds will cover the majority of expenses, according to the district.

Instead of operating at 60 percent of capacity, McDaniel said schools will operate at 84 percent of capacity once the plan is implemented.

Much will need to be done to get buildings ready by Aug. 12, the first day of school. Toilets, sinks and water fountains will need to be adjusted and adequate recreational space added at elementary schools that will be become middle schools, McDaniel has said.

Of the 57 schools that will be affected by the plan, 45 are "school ready," he has said. Twelve others will need some modifications, he said.

Related Photos
<strong>Members of the community gather to listen in during an Oklahoma City Public School special meeting to vote on the Pathway to Greatness plan to close 15 schools and reconfigure or relocate 17 others at Northeast Academy in Oklahoma City, Okla. on Monday, March 4, 2019. The school board voted in favor to move forward with the proposed plan.   Photo by Chris Landsberger, The Oklahoman</strong>

Members of the community gather to listen in during an Oklahoma City Public School special meeting to vote on the Pathway to Greatness plan to close 15 schools and reconfigure or relocate 17 others at Northeast Academy in Oklahoma City, Okla. on Monday, March 4, 2019. The school board voted in...

<figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-65436864405e57feac9c94cab97be7f9.jpg" alt="Photo - Members of the community gather to listen in during an Oklahoma City Public School special meeting to vote on the Pathway to Greatness plan to close 15 schools and reconfigure or relocate 17 others at Northeast Academy in Oklahoma City, Okla. on Monday, March 4, 2019. The school board voted in favor to move forward with the proposed plan. Photo by Chris Landsberger, The Oklahoman " title=" Members of the community gather to listen in during an Oklahoma City Public School special meeting to vote on the Pathway to Greatness plan to close 15 schools and reconfigure or relocate 17 others at Northeast Academy in Oklahoma City, Okla. on Monday, March 4, 2019. The school board voted in favor to move forward with the proposed plan. Photo by Chris Landsberger, The Oklahoman "><figcaption> Members of the community gather to listen in during an Oklahoma City Public School special meeting to vote on the Pathway to Greatness plan to close 15 schools and reconfigure or relocate 17 others at Northeast Academy in Oklahoma City, Okla. on Monday, March 4, 2019. The school board voted in favor to move forward with the proposed plan. Photo by Chris Landsberger, The Oklahoman </figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-7152fac85c244cf45406c8e03e7c769a.jpg" alt="Photo - Oklahoma City Public School superintendent Dr. Sean McDaniel hugs board member Ruth Veales after the Oklahoma City Public School special meeting to vote on the plan to close 15 schools and reconfigure or relocate 17 others at Northeast Academy in Oklahoma City, Okla. on Monday, March 4, 2019. Photo by Chris Landsberger, The Oklahoman " title=" Oklahoma City Public School superintendent Dr. Sean McDaniel hugs board member Ruth Veales after the Oklahoma City Public School special meeting to vote on the plan to close 15 schools and reconfigure or relocate 17 others at Northeast Academy in Oklahoma City, Okla. on Monday, March 4, 2019. Photo by Chris Landsberger, The Oklahoman "><figcaption> Oklahoma City Public School superintendent Dr. Sean McDaniel hugs board member Ruth Veales after the Oklahoma City Public School special meeting to vote on the plan to close 15 schools and reconfigure or relocate 17 others at Northeast Academy in Oklahoma City, Okla. on Monday, March 4, 2019. Photo by Chris Landsberger, The Oklahoman </figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-adedf60da7ef97e33cb642280a045434.jpg" alt="Photo - Members of the community gather to listen in during an Oklahoma City Public School special meeting to vote on the Pathway to Greatness plan to close 15 schools and reconfigure or relocate 17 others at Northeast Academy in Oklahoma City, Okla. on Monday, March 4, 2019. The school board voted in favor to move forward with the proposed plan. Photo by Chris Landsberger, The Oklahoman " title=" Members of the community gather to listen in during an Oklahoma City Public School special meeting to vote on the Pathway to Greatness plan to close 15 schools and reconfigure or relocate 17 others at Northeast Academy in Oklahoma City, Okla. on Monday, March 4, 2019. The school board voted in favor to move forward with the proposed plan. Photo by Chris Landsberger, The Oklahoman "><figcaption> Members of the community gather to listen in during an Oklahoma City Public School special meeting to vote on the Pathway to Greatness plan to close 15 schools and reconfigure or relocate 17 others at Northeast Academy in Oklahoma City, Okla. on Monday, March 4, 2019. The school board voted in favor to move forward with the proposed plan. Photo by Chris Landsberger, The Oklahoman </figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-e16fb7b389536d1dc556f43f6cbbe230.jpg" alt="Photo - " title=""><figcaption></figcaption></figure>
Tim Willert

Tim Willert is a native Californian with Oklahoma ties who covers K-12 education, including Oklahoma City Public Schools and the state Education Department. Before that he covered district, federal and appellate courts in Oklahoma County. Prior... Read more ›

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