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Health department seeks input for programming at Sequoyah, Oakridge schools

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Sequoyah Elementary MAPS celebration on Monday, March 5, 2012 in Oklahoma City, Okla.  Photo by Chris Landsberger, The Oklahoman
Sequoyah Elementary MAPS celebration on Monday, March 5, 2012 in Oklahoma City, Okla. Photo by Chris Landsberger, The Oklahoman

Neighborhood residents anxious about what will become of Sequoyah Elementary, 2400 NW 36, after the final school bell rings aired their concerns during a town hall meeting last week.

Some were worried upcoming changes might lower property values and increase crime in the low-income neighborhood.

Sequoyah and Oakridge Elementary, in southeast Oklahoma City, are being converted into community centers operated by the Oklahoma City-County Health Department. They will offer things like after-school programs, senior adult programs, wellness clinics, recreation programs and social services.

“We want to bring something of value to this community,” said Gary Cox, health department executive director. He told residents improvements will be made both inside and outdoors.

Oklahoma City Public Schools will retain ownership of the property, but the health department will operate the facility with programming for kids, their families and the neighborhood, Cox said. The plan is to have after-school programs in place when school starts in August.

Cox asked neighborhood residents what services and programs they would like to see in the building.

Resident Karen Locke, who has a daughter in the school, suggested arts and crafts, dance, and sports programs for kids. Rebecca Weingart, another mother who lives nearby, mentioned Junior Achievement and mindfulness curriculum. Other suggestions included karate, YMCA programs, Spanish language classes for English-speakers and a program that pairs kids with senior adults.

Schools Superintendent Sean McDaniel said more than 50 organizations — including Junior Achievement, Boys and Girls Clubs, YMCA, Police Athletic League, Cub Scouts and Girl Scouts — are interested in providing programs in schools that will be closed under a reorganization plan.

"We think it will be buzzing around here," McDaniel said. "What do you want in your community?"

Cox said the kitchen, auditorium, playground equipment and new gymnasium/storm shelter all can be used to benefit the neighborhood. More meetings and surveys are planned to get input about what programs the residents want, he said.

"We want to fill in some of the missing components for the kids," Cox said.

The school closures offer an opportunity to "create facilities that address very specific concerns in different areas," said Ward 2 City Councilman James Cooper.

Cooper said he would like to see the city partner with the school district to repurpose additional buildings and "build more recreation facilities and parks in areas that have been left behind."

The public can go to occhd.org to submit questions and suggestions for both the Sequoyah and Oakridge facilities.

K.S. McNutt

Kathryn McNutt covers higher education for The Oklahoman and NewsOK. Since joining the staff in August 2000, she also has worked as the Breaking News editor, Metro editor and assistant Local editor. A native of Oklahoma City, she graduated from... Read more ›

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