Oklahoma City schools chip in extra $1.5 million for new administration building

BY MICHAEL KIMBALL mkimball@opubco.com Modified: June 27, 2012 at 10:20 pm •  Published: June 28, 2012
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Oklahoma City Public Schools officials are doubling down on their potential investment to return to the district's roots in the old Central High School building downtown.

The district's Board of Education voted this week to contribute up to $3 million toward the purchase of the building, doubling its previous commitment of $1.5 million.

It would become the home of the district's administrative offices, currently housed in an aging former middle school and other buildings at NW 9 and Klein Avenue.

The historic 102-year-old former school at NW 7 and Robinson Avenue, the district's first high school, is now the home to insurance group American Farmers and Ranchers.

“We'll be making an offer on the building this week,” said David Todd, the city's MAPS director.

Opportunity knocks

One of the final MAPS for Kids projects was intended to be a $4 million renovation of the current administration building. But a study showed the cost to turn it into purpose-built office space to be well in excess of that.

The district's offices now are in one of the only school buildings in the city that isn't brand-new or fully renovated, because MAPS for Kids took care of the buildings students use. The building has many mechanical and structural issues.

Conveniently, the old Central High School building had a thorough renovation to turn it into office space in the 1980s.

“It's a combination of history and functionality,” said Jim Burkey, the district's chief operations officer.

Intangible benefits

Beyond the functional purpose of the building, school officials hope there are more intangible benefits, too.

The current administrative offices have officials spread across multiple buildings; all would be under one roof in the old Central High School building.

“The nature of the building will contribute to a stronger collaborative culture,” said Sonic Corp. Chairman and CEO Cliff Hudson, a former chairman of the school board. “In the building they're in right now, I think it's difficult. The layout does not lend itself to ready engagement.”