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Planned elementary for downtown Oklahoma City may be charter school

Leadership from the Oklahoma City School District has spent the better half of a year negotiating with Kirk Humphreys and other urban leaders about creative ways to run the proposed urban school.
BY MEGAN ROLLAND Published: June 13, 2011

One of the sticking points in negotiations is the attendance boundaries of the school, or the geographic area from which the students will be drawn. The prekindergarten- through-12th-grade school will serve 500 students.

Typically, charter schools don't have traditional attendance boundaries, but Horning said they want this to be a community school that serves a defined population.

A site has been tentatively selected for the school — a vacant lot on the southwest corner of Sheridan and Walker avenues — which puts the school in the heart of downtown close to museums, the library, Myriad Gardens and other great resources.

But it's also a site without a large student population nearby.

Horning and Humphreys both said the attendance boundaries wouldn't go north far enough to cut into the boundaries of Wilson Elementary School, which has been very successful.

And to the east, elementary schools have been struggling to maintain class sizes, with the closest school to downtown closing a year ago. There is, however, a sizable student population in the area south of the Oklahoma River.

The idea behind the charter is that vacant seats in the school that are not filled by students within an attendance boundary would be filled by students transferring in using a suggested preference ranking that's in the draft agreement.

First preference would be given to students in the school boundaries. Outside of that a slight advantage is given to students whose parents work in the downtown area.

“Too much demand would be a wonderful thing,” Humphreys said.

Public-private partnership

Horning and Humphreys said they are stronger together.

“The business community has resources that are not made available to the school district every day,” Horning said.

The current agreement, that is likely to undergo changes, calls for the Oklahoma City Quality Schools to provide additional private donations of at least $1.5 million during the first five years.

Humphreys said because the businessmen's fingerprints will be on the project, they will be more invested in the results and outcome than typical school-business partnerships.

Meanwhile, Humphreys said, they will get a new building paid for by the voter-approved MAPS for Kids bond issue and sales tax. The MAPS for Kids plan promised voters an elementary school downtown.

Humphreys said his vision is that the new school eventually will attract families downtown.

“We're trying to build a city, and we're trying to break this preconceived perception that when you land in Oklahoma City you must go to the suburbs,” Humphreys said. “You're not going to build a strong community with families with school-age children if you don't have a good school downtown.”


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