Project Schoolhouse under way as schools converted, teachers and students reassigned
BY ANDREA EGER World Staff Writer
Monday, July 11, 2011
7/11/11 at 7:43 AM
Signs of change are starting to appear on marquees and the sides of school buildings all over town.
The implementation of Tulsa Public Schools' efficiency initiative called Project Schoolhouse has moving vans ferrying school property, old names being removed to make room for new ones and the reassignment of displaced teachers nearing completion.
"We started moving three days after school was out and we have contracted for some additional help with movers because it is a vast job," said Deputy Superintendent Millard House. "We have a couple of staging sites where we are moving assets like books, copiers - a plethora of things - that we have pulled out of the schools. After July 18th, we will allow schools that will have an increased enrollment to request items from our Project Schoolhouse inventory."
The dramatic consolidation plan has eliminated 5,600 of the district's 10,400 empty seats through the closure of 14 school buildings and the conversion of nine others.
Most elementary schools will house sixth-graders now, and that necessitated the conversion of some middle schools into elementary schools. Those buildings, including Gilcrease, Hamilton and Lewis and Clark, are getting some plumbing adjustments, such as smaller toilets and sinks, to accommodate their new student populations.
Most middle schools are becoming junior highs and are being renamed with the same name as the high schools they feed into in an effort to help students identify with their high schools earlier. All of those name changes create a lot of work.
House said TPS maintenance crews have already begun the relocating and removal of signage.
"We will reuse anything that can be reused that wouldn't be damaged or destroyed when it's being removed from the side of the building or from the ground," he said.
Administrators have planned all along for there to be some costs associated with the effort to save money in the long run. Most capital costs are being paid from bond funds that had been intended for closed school sites. But last week the school board approved the expenditure of as much as $100,000 from Project Schoolhouse savings for the purchase of new athletic uniforms for schools with new names. The logistics of reassigning 7,000 affected students and hundreds of affected teachers is nearing completion, officials said.
All 2,000-plus transfer requests have been processed, and TPS has sent approval or denial notices out to all of those students' parents, said Larry Smith, assistant superintendent for accountability.
House estimated that fewer than 30 secondary school teachers have yet to be placed.
"All elementary teachers were placed, but there are some remaining vacancies. The idea is not to go outside to hire until we make sure we don't have anyone with the appropriate certification who we can shift (from secondary) to elementary schools," House said.
TPS has already added 11 art and music teachers to fulfill its commitment to offer art, music and physical education at every elementary school.
With the clock already winding down on summer preparations for the new academic year, House pledged that Project Schoolhouse work is far from complete.
"Project Schoolhouse is not a 12-month process," he said. "It will be an ongoing process over the next years. There may be some things we need to make adjustments on and we do know that need will be there when school starts. We will be soliciting feedback on how things are going at sites that have had major shifts."
Tulsa Public Schools undergoing changes
Buildings being shuttered: Addams, Alcott, Barnard, Cherokee, Chouteau, Early Childhood Development Center-Bunche, Grimes, Roosevelt and Sandburg elementary schools; Cleveland and Wilson middle schools; and Tulsa Met-Franklin and Tulsa Met-Lombard alternative education schools and Fulton Teaching and Learning Academy
Buildings being converted for new grade configurations: Bryant, Gilcrease, Hamilton, Houston, Lewis and Clark, Madison, Nimitz, Phillips, Rogers
Facility reopening as a school: Monroe
- Source: Tulsa Public Schools
Original Print Headline: Consolidation under way
Andrea Eger 918-581-8470
Danny Phillips uses a flat bar to dismantle lettering from the former Whitney Middle School on Friday. Under the Tulsa Public Schools' Project Schoolhouse, the school will become Hale Junior High. MATT BARNARD / Tulsa World
Danny Phillips removes pieces of a sign from the former Whitney Middle School. MATT BARNARD / Tulsa World
Danny Phillips peels lettering from an overhang at the former Whitney Middle School on Friday. The school will become Hale Junior High, one of many middle schools being renamed with the same name as its parent high school. MATT BARNARD / Tulsa World