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Application schools add opportunity

The end is near for Parmelee Elementary School. Same for West Nichols Hills Elementary. Northeast Academy, too, will cease to exist beginning with the 2019-2020 school year.

Oklahoma City Public Schools, as part of the district's large-scale reorganization project, will remake Parmelee, West Nichols Hills and Northeast so more students will have access to successful application programs offered at Southeast High School, Belle Isle Enterprise Middle School and Classen School of Advanced Studies.

Application schools have selective admission requirements and specific areas of focus.

For Superintendent Sean McDaniel, it's about creating more choices for families and opportunities for students — about 1,400 opportunities.

"Our application schools have a track record of success," McDaniel told The Oklahoman. "And so when we know that there are waiting lists, when we know that families by and large want choices for their families, for their kids, application schools represent that choice."

Parmelee, 6700 S Hudson, will become the new Southeast Middle School and feed into Southeast High, a popular application school that serves as the district's technology hub. Robotics and coding and video technology are popular among students.

Arthur Elementary Principal Rhonda Schroeder will lead Southeast Middle School as its first principal. The new school will prepare students in grades five through eight for "college and career skills" and "we would be expecting students and families to work hard for those things," she said.

"Our goal is to help prepare middle-schoolers to be able to be successful," she said. "Our academics will be enriched with science and technology and engineering and mathematics and all the other traditional things that you would expect to have in a middle school."

West Nichols Hills, 8400 N Greystone, will serve fifth- and sixth-graders under the Belle Isle Enterprise Middle School umbrella. Seventh- and eight-graders will attend school in Belle Isle's existing building at 5904 N Villa.

Lynne Zahn will oversee both Belle Isle campuses as principal.

"There's going to be some changes, but as far as the reputation of Belle Isle and the programs that we offer, the things that set us apart as a unique school will continue to be that way," said Zahn, who will succeed Lynn Kellert, who is retiring.

At Belle Isle, all sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade students take Spanish. In addition to traditional math classes, students take a math exploration class that connects math concepts with real-world applications. Opportunities exist for students to catch up if they fall behind, and rotating classes let students explore elective topics like gardening and STEM projects.

The fine arts programs are also favorites among students at Belle Isle, where teachers aren't afraid to try new ideas, said Christy Watson, a Belle Isle parent who serves on the board of the nonprofit that helps oversee the school in partnership with Oklahoma City Public Schools.

"The school produces exceptionally well-rounded students thanks to great teachers, great leaders and so many opportunities for students to become engaged through academics, fine arts, athletics and other extracurricular activities," she said. "Belle Isle's culture is incredibly supportive and revolves around individual student success while still fostering the development of personal responsibility."

Northeast, 3100 N Kelley, is a mid-high known for its health sciences and engineering programs. The school's signature building will become the new home for high school students who attend Classen School of Advanced Studies. Classen SAS, which serves students in grades six through 12, is known for its International Baccalaureate Diploma and Visual and Performing Arts programs. The new high school will be called Classen SAS High School.

Beginning Aug. 12, Classen's existing building, 1901 N Ellison, will be home to middle school students, including those from Northeast who desire to make the move. Those who don't can attend their assigned neighborhood school, officials said.

"Students can major in piano, choir, dance, all of those things that make Classen SAS special," said Chris Thomas, the middle school's incoming principal. "Classen SAS is a fantastic school for any student who likes to perform, academically, artistically or athletically."

In all, the district is offering 1,430 additional seats at the three schools — 800 at Southeast Middle, 330 at Classen SAS Middle, and 300 at Belle Isle. Each application school is suited to meet the strengths and the interests of the student, officials said.

As of Thursday, the district had received 300 applications for Classen SAS and 600 applications from Southeast, a spokeswoman said. Belle Isle had received 557 applications for incoming fifth- and six-graders, Kellert said.

The district has set a Monday deadline but is expected to keep taking applications until the seats are filled. Families who apply before Monday's deadline will be notified before May 4, when the district hosts open houses at every school that will open in the coming year. Admission requirements vary from school to school. Application schools are open to all Oklahoma City Public Schools students.

The district is closing 15 schools and reconfiguring or relocating 17 others as part of a plan to align facilities and resources with instructional needs.

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File art. Photo credit: Unsplashed

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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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