Two years after closing, an early child development center in southwest Tulsa could reopen to temporarily house KIPP Tulsa’s growing high school.
The Tulsa school board will vote April 22 on a plan to relocate KIPP Tulsa University Prep High School from Oklahoma State University-Tulsa to the ECDC-Porter facility for the 2019-20 school year.
The proposal comes as the new high school wraps up its first school year, which consists only of freshmen. One grade level will be added during each of the next three years, with plans for up to 500 students when fully enrolled.
KIPP Tulsa, a charter sponsored by Tulsa Public Schools, opened the school on the OSU-Tulsa campus after the original plan to lease space at Edurec Youth and Family Fun Center in north Tulsa fell through in spring 2018.
In many ways, being located at OSU-Tulsa has been optimal due to the high school’s mission to serve north Tulsa students and its college-preparatory focus, said Andrea Castaneda, the TPS chief design and innovation officer.
“There are a few drawbacks, though, and over the course of the year, I think that they have really looked forward to being in a more conventional school,” Castaneda said.
A small example she gave is that teachers often have to pack up their classrooms at night to make way for the incoming college students.
Don Parker, interim executive director at KIPP Tulsa, said the biggest issue is a lack of space to accommodate the high school’s growing enrollment. He noted the agreement with OSU-Tulsa was always supposed to last one year.
The vacant ECDC-Porter building, located at 1740 W. 41st St., has a capacity of about 260 and is better suited to handle next year’s expansion to 10th grade. Parker said KIPP Tulsa University Prep will have about 95 freshmen and 95 sophomores.
But Porter, which closed in 2017 as part of a controversial consolidation effort affecting several west Tulsa schools, is too small to be a permanent solution. If approved, the move would be good for up to two school years.
“This is a location that will serve us comfortably for one year, and if we squeeze a little bit it can serve us for two years,” Parker said.
KIPP officials will work with TPS to find another suitable location for when the high school outgrows Porter.
Although Parker said it would be nice to not worry about moving from building to building, he knows it’s a common issue for charters trying to expand.
“It’s part of the life of dealing with charter schools,” he said. “Buildings are always a challenge, and you accustom yourself to having to scramble on a regular basis to come up with facilities.”
The charter school would continue to provide busing for its students, most of whom live in north Tulsa, to the new building in southwest Tulsa. Parker doesn’t foresee transportation being a major problem, in part due to Porter’s convenient location near the highway.
TPS and KIPP hosted two public meetings for the community surrounding Porter in the past week. Parker said people were “very welcoming” and seemed excited about having the school building occupied again.
“One of the couples that was there raised their hands and said, ‘How can we help?’ That’s what you would hope to hear when you’re going into a community like that,” he said. “So I think the community reception has been very warm, and I appreciate that.”