Oklahoma City Public Schools Superintendent Aurora Lora has decided not to close any schools this school year, 2017-2018 according to a statement released to Free Press late Friday afternoon.
She does believe that there are “tough choices” to be made this year about teacher assignments because of schools that are “significantly under-enrolled.”
Lora also wants to have a “larger community conversation” next school year, 2018-2019 about charter schools, magnet schools and bond (borrowing) needs.
Free Press submitted questions early in the day Friday to gain clarity on several rumors circulating about school closures and teacher transfers this school year.
At 4:45 p.m. Friday, Courtney Morton, Manager of Digital Communications, sent a response:
To give the district more time to plan and collect information to be included in our demographic study and facilities assessment processes, Supt Lora has decided to delay any discussions about school consolidations until next school year.
Then the district’s statement seemed to open a larger set of topics for future discussion about needs the district may have in the future:
We hope to be prepared in 2018-19 for a larger community conversation around future bond needs, our vision for charters in OKC, and whether there would be interest in starting up or expanding any magnet school opportunities in OKC.
Adding charter and magnet schools to the discussion about school consolidations is a new twist on the topic.
In March of last school year Lora announced that several schools mostly on the near north side of Oklahoma City would need to be closed and student populations consolidated because of financial pressures caused by cuts in state funding.
After a public outcry by parents and heavy exposure in the press, Lora held a series of community meetings at schools targeted for closing.
As a result, she decided to stop the consolidation plans until the district could carry on a more meaningful discussion this year.
Now, the discussion has been put off until next year.
Included in the same statement to Free Press were other statements about teacher transfers to achieve balance in the number of teachers to students in various buildings around the district.
This has been a usual practice in years past, but generally not this many weeks into the school year at the elementary schools.
And with the backdrop of Lora’s original design to close several popular, but small elementary schools last year, parents and teachers have been on edge about what might happen this year as the district started moving teachers between buildings.
The statements seemed to aim at easing those concerns:
Small boundary changes and revisions to our transfer policies to make small adjustments to enrollment are possible this year.
Because we continue to operate a number of schools that are significantly under-enrolled, it is critical that we make these tough choices to rebalance staff across our schools to make sure we are using our resources wisely.
District staffing formulas typically determine initial decisions about how many teachers, support staff and administrators are assigned to each school before students arrive in the fall.
Then, when actual enrollments are complete, adjustment are made.
In addition, at the end of another statement issued to the wider media Friday afternoon, fears that some teachers would lose their jobs after starting the school year were addressed.
The statement said “…no employees will lose their jobs as a result of this rebalancing process.”
“District leaders are committed to working closely with school principals over the next week to determine how best to accommodate needed changes and to minimize impact on students,” the statement said.