Preliminary designs presented for downtown Oklahoma City elementary

Preliminary renderings of a new downtown elementary in Oklahoma City were presented Wednesday to the Oklahoma City Urban Renewal Authority with a pitch that the project, if successful, will accelerate development of new housing in the city's urban core.
by Steve Lackmeyer Published: August 16, 2012
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“The building needs to be substantial in order to stand out in the urban context,” Leonard said.

The southwest corner of the block, meanwhile, is being designed as a garden, playground and outdoor space that fits in with the school's mission of becoming a “boundless academy” where students are encouraged to experiment, dream up new ideas, and enjoy the benefit of surrounding cultural venues, including the Ronald J. Norick Downtown Library, Oklahoma City Musuem of Art and Myriad Gardens.

“The big idea of this project is that there be a strong connection between what goes on in the school and what is happening in the city,” Leonard said.

Kirk Humphreys, a board member with Oklahoma City Quality Schools, assured Urban Renewal commissioners that the school will represent the diverse population of the city, with attendance boundaries set at NW 10, the Oklahoma River, Lottie Avenue and Western Avenue.

Humphreys told commissioners the school also will accept students from what are deemed failing schools, and students whose parents work downtown.

“It's a statement school,” Humphreys said. “We want someone to drive into downtown, see the school kids, and say, ‘Wow, these people care about education.' … We'd love it if a Devon employee who lives in Edmond sends their kid to this school and loves it so much they want to live downtown.”


by Steve Lackmeyer
Reporter Sr.
Steve Lackmeyer is a reporter and columnist who started his career at The Oklahoman in 1990. Since then, he has won numerous awards for his coverage, which included the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, the city's Metropolitan...
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Background

Elementary plans to be analyzed

Plans for the John W. Rex Elementary School will be reviewed by several government bodies and likely will be scrutinized more than any other school built as part of the MAPS for Kids program. The land, one of the city's blighted “skid rows,” is owned by the Oklahoma City Urban Renewal Authority, and the exterior and site plans require the approval of the authority's board.

One contention arose during Wednesday's review by Urban Renewal as board member Larry Nichols challenged the location of the drop-off and pickup area along Dewey Avenue as being too long of a walk for children to the classroom building.

Designer Kerry Leonard responded the site plan is designed for long lines of cars to begin along California and Dewey avenues — out of the more heavily traveled Sheridan and Walker avenues. He also responded a change in the building locations would result in the classrooms looking out at the Sheridan Walker Parking Garage instead of the Myriad Gardens.

The plans are next set to be reviewed by the nonprofit Oklahoma City Quality Schools, which is helping fund the project and will operate the school in conjunction with Oklahoma City Public Schools as a charter school.

The designs also will require approval by the Oklahoma City MAPS for Kids Trust, the Oklahoma City Public School Board, the Oklahoma City Council and the Downtown Design Review Committee.

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