Mayo students, parents find many changes at new building
BY ANDREA EGER World Staff Writer
Monday, August 20, 2012
8/20/12 at 4:56 PM
The race against the clock to prepare an old vacant middle school as the new home of one of the city's most sought-after elementary schools ended Monday morning with the arrival students.
At an impromptu pep rally for students and parents around the Mayo Demonstration School flagpole, Superintendent Keith Ballard and Principal Kenneth Joslin proclaimed the head custodian at Mayo the hero of the first day of school at Tulsa Public Schools.
"This has been an amazing experience that we don't ever want to go through again!" said Joslin, before asking for a round of applause for Cecil Lockett, a 16-year veteran at TPS, who worked three weeks straight without a single day off.
Just 107 days ago, a major renovation was undertaken at the vacant Wilson Middle School facility, 1127 S. Columbia Ave., to accommodate Mayo, as well as the employee offices and professional development classes that used to be housed at Fulton Teaching and Learning Academy.
The former sites of Fulton and Mayo were declared surplus as part of a major efficiency initiative in TPS called Project Schoolhouse, which has led to the closure of more than 15 school facilities over the last year.
Mayo is so popular that TPS officials decided to relocate it into a larger facility so that it can expand gradually until it reaches an enrollment of about 400 students. Its "open classroom" design, which allows for constant collaboration among teachers, required the removal of many walls in Wilson, which first opened in 1926.
After saying the Pledge of Allegiance and singing the school song together outside, students, parents and teachers flooded in through the front doors as Sister Sledge's "We Are Family" blasted from a public address system.
Inside, they found a facility with much work still to be completed.
Still, the lack of working phones, the sight of crews scraping decades-old paint from rusty fire escapes, missing trim work and door knobs -- plus empty gaps where display cases will soon be constructed -- pale in comparison to the state of the place just two weeks ago.
Joslin, the principal, said at that time, he had no confidence the place would be fit for occupancy Monday.
"Half the stuff wasn't moved into the building," he said, "but this is a very tight-knit community. The parents and staff came together to get things moving."
Lockett, the head custodian, had help from a custodial team, but on Saturday, an army of more than 100 parent volunteers showed up to pitch in with cleaning, painting and furniture moving.
"That was cool. Out of all the schools I've worked in over the years, this was the first time I've ever seen that happen," he said.
Jack Allen, whose daughter is a second-grader, has witnessed the facility's transformation since he first took a tour when the relocation was being considered.
"There is probably 30 days worth of work left to do, but it already looks great. There's dust everywhere, but kids don't care," he said.
Against the unusual backdrop of an active renovation, there were all of the typical first day of school scenes -- students wearing brand new school clothes and backpacks, moms and dads helping them find their new classrooms, and even a prekindergarten girl and her mother crying out their first-day jitters as teachers and other parents tried to console them.
Carmalita Reynolds' son Jakari is beginning kindergarten and his second year at Mayo. But Reynolds said she was almost as anxious about this first day of school.
"I'm excited about what Mayo can do for children and this is closer to my home in Gilcrease Hills, but he's still my baby! I spent a week in the crybaby room last year -- for parents," she said, laughing at her own nerves.
Mayo Demonstration School parent Carina Martinez (left) and her daughter Alexa Martinez (crying on right), 4, tear up on the opposite sides of the wall on Alexa's first day of pre-kindergarten, Monday. CORY YOUNG/Tulsa World