While students at Positive Tomorrows enjoyed face painting, Santa and stuffing, Rep. Joe Dorman worked behind the counter serving up lunches.
He's pledged to work just as hard at the Capitol this session to serve up some funding.
Positive Tomorrows is a private school that serves 46 elementary school students who have been identified as homeless or home insecure in Oklahoma City. The nonprofit operates on just under $1 million a year.
The funding comes entirely from private donors, but that wasn't always the case.
Before 2004, Positive Tomorrows was a part of Oklahoma City Public Schools and received $400,000 in federal funding and other funds from the school district.
But a change in federal policy prohibited money dedicated to homeless students by the McKinney Vento Homeless Assistance Act from being spent on programs where homeless students were segregated from the at-large student population.
That is precisely what Positive Tomorrows does.
The school closed for a year, regrouped and now operates solely on donations.
Dorman, D-Rush Springs, has introduced a shell bill that he says will soon contain language to restore public funding to Positive Tomorrows.
“The bill will re-designate Positive Tomorrows as a specific type of magnet school or charter school to put them back in the school district for funding,” Dorman said. “It won't be a huge hit to the budget because there is one school in the state of Oklahoma that does this.”
Winter break camp
Most students are home for winter break, but at Positive Tomorrows, students are in school taking field trips, caroling at a nursing home and learning through fun, hands-on activities.
Tuesday, the school held its annual holiday carnival, treating students and their families to a day filled with Santa, face painting and a lunch provided by Bricktown Rotary, Oklahoma City Firefighters and Rococo Restaurant.
“Our families are so focused on survival that the holidays take a back seat,” said Josh Beasley, director of development for Positive Tomorrows. “This is our chance to give them a fun holiday experience.”
At the same time, teachers are working during the interim to catch students up who may have fallen behind, he said.
The children will go ice skating at the rink in Myriad Gardens, on trips to the art museum and science museum and they will do some volunteer work.
“We make it really fun so the kids want to come,” he said “Our children are dealing with so much chaos in their lives, so much instability, they love to come to school where they know what to expect.”
The staff provide breakfast and lunch for the students who sometimes go without food at home. There is a closet full of donated clothes for the students and the classrooms are warm and safe.
“Any time they are in school we want to be uplifting, supportive and nurturing,” he said.
Dorman said he fell in love with the school when he first toured it.
“It's just an amazing service, and it's hard to say no,” he said. “They've been operating for years without that funding. They didn't know they could do that.”
The change in the law will be considered during the legislative session that begins in February, Dorman said.