Nearly two years after quashing its controversial proposal to divide Broken Arrow High School, the school district’s configuration committee has prepared new recommendations focusing on academics and innovation.
The committee, which was formed in 2015 to create a plan regarding the future and framework of Broken Arrow’s growing high school, will present the recommendations at Monday night’s school board meeting.
Although the specifics won’t be released until the meeting, district officials say this new proposal is nothing like its predecessor. The original plan from two years ago would have used money from a recently approved bond issue to reconfigure the freshman academy into a second high school by 2021. A third high school would have opened in fall 2031, pending the outcome of a bond election in 2027.
Community members opposed converting the freshman academy for fear that it would be inferior to the current high school campus. And Superintendent Janet Dunlop said there weren’t enough bond dollars available to build a new high school.
The adverse reaction led to the configuration process being put on hold and the creation of a visioning task force to focus on improving academic programming and preparing students to succeed after graduation before worrying about facility expansion.
“We had this extra challenge of meeting two variables,” Dunlop said. “First, we want to be very innovative and forward-thinking about how we’re redefining what high school even means. And, secondly, how do we do that within the confines of the current bond that we’re in?”
After a year of researching academic and extracurricular programs, the task force brought its findings to the configuration committee in August. The committee, along with three task force members, then reconvened to further discuss bond dollars, financial forecasts and the framework of Broken Arrow High School.
Those discussions resulted in three recommendations that will be presented to the school board Monday. The first centers around expanding academic opportunities, Dunlop said, and the second involves STEM programming (science, technology, engineering and math) as part of the 2015 bond package.
The third concerns the handling of future bond dollars. Dunlop said this recommendation was designed to be flexible because a lot can happen between now and the next bond election.
“We don’t want to back the board into a corner,” she said. “Anything could change before 2027. If the current board votes that this is the direction we’re going to go down and then something major changes, then that’s not fair to a future board.”
However, they can recommend projects, such as new school buildings, for future bond issues and design a road map that hopefully will make them feasible when the time comes.
Dunlop said she believes families will be much more supportive of the new proposals and is eager for the configuration process to finally move on to the next stage.
“More than anything, I’m ready for the community to have this decided,” she said. “It’s good for our community to know what direction we’re going in the future and to be able to move forward that so we can all be pointed in the same direction instead of continuing to talk about it and not seeing action.”