Tulsa closing schools in West Tulsa

The Tulsa School Board targeted three West Tulsa elementary schools for closure in a reaction to an anticipated $12 million reduction in state aid for next year.

Superintendent Deborah Gist recommended closing Park and Remington elementaries plus Early Childhood Development Center-Porter. Those elementary students would be shipped to Clinton Middle School and Clinton students would have to switch to Webster High School, which would still have senior high students.

Gist said those schools were targeted because of low attendance. The action was taken despite the pleas of several parents of children who attend those schools.

Part of a previous board vote was to lay off 60 employees who are not teachers. That plan also includes hiring or rehiring 37 positions. Cutting 26 administrative and office jobs would save only $1 million.

The state is projecting an $800 million-plus shortfall due to falling energy prices.

Gist recommended a personnel plan to cut another $1.6 million from next year’s budget and it was approved by the board.

Those actions include:

  • Doing away with 37 teacher positions through attrition.
  • Adjusting situations for special education workers.
  • Downsizing reserve teacher positions.
  • Raising high school class sizes.
  • Adjusting Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate classes.

The board has already approved another $1 million budget reduction for next year that eliminated or defunded 60 central office positions and created or reconfigured 37 new ones, for a net reduction of 26 positions.

Gist cuts that are still under consideration are:

  • Two districtwide furlough days
  • Three added furlough days for administrators
  • Changing instruction supports
  • Lessening custodial services
  • Dipping into the district’s carryover funds.

Gist will present her recommended 2017-2018 budget to the board on June 19. The Oklahoma Legislature should have passed the state budget by then and Tulsa will know exactly how much money it will receive.

One controversial proposal that has strong opposition is closing HelmZar, a challenge/ropes course, that was built entirely with donated funds and has served thousands of students and Tulsa residents.

Coupled with renegotiated legal fees, closing HelmZar would only save about $400,000 a year.