Wheeler District charter school supporters present to OKC board
A new charter school being proposed for the Wheeler District would offer students a rigorous curriculum and cultural learning experiences, representatives told the Oklahoma City School Board on Monday night.
Backers of Western Gateway Elementary Schools have submitted an application for the 2020-21 school year calling for a K-5 dual-language immersion charter school with a small enrollment boundary south of the Oklahoma River covering the Wheeler District and existing neighborhoods to the west of the district. The proposed school would be built near the corner of SW 15 and Douglas Avenue.
Blair Humphreys, executive director of the Wheeler District and a member of the school's board of directors, said the school would bring together students who predominantly speak English speakers and those who predominantly speak Spanish "in a way where they both benefit from bilingual education and true immersion."
Humphreys said the school would be built on a donated site and funded in part through Tax Increment Financing provided through an economic development agreement with the city of Oklahoma City.
Presenter Ashley Terry told the board the school's projected 450 students will not only excel academically through the use of two languages, they will develop a sense of their local community.
"Students who are educated through immersion programs display better problem solving, critical thinking and listening skills in addition to overall language proficiency skills," she said. "Through the curriculum at Western Gateway Elementary School, students will be exposed to other perspectives, encouraging them to ... understand the differences and similarities between themselves and those who are around them."
Presenter Sherry Coy said students enrolled in a dual-language track would learn to speak, read and write proficiently in two languages. A traditional track would be for students who desire "high conversational fluency" in Spanish.
"The school's basic curriculum content would not differ from many of the other elementary schools in Oklahoma City. Not that much, anyway," Coy said. "What will differ is how the teachers deliver the curriculum."
Western Gateway steering committee members include school board member Gloria Torres, former board members Phil Horning and Laura Massenat, former City Councilman Pete White and Raul Font, president of the Latino Development Agency.
"I'm excited about the idea of having that dual-language opportunity," Torres said. "This is something I think is going to be very beneficial."
The board will consider the charter school application when it meets May 13 meeting, officials said.