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Monday, the Oklahoma City Public Schools Board of Education approved moving John Rex to charter status within Oklahoma City Public Schools.

The school has been a unique hybrid formed from the desire of people who work in downtown to have the option of a high-achieving school in that area.

Yet, it has never been simply a private school, it’s founders choosing to develop the idea as a hybrid charter school.

The school had an Academic Enterprise Zone (AEZ) that required at least 60% of the families in the zone to be at an income level that would allow their children to receive free and reduced-price lunches.

John Rex School OKC looking East
John Rex School OKC looking East. Brett Dickerson/Okla City Free Press

New name and structure

The new name for the school won’t be far off from its original. According to the application document, the name will be “John W. Rex Elementary School” to be governed by “John W. Rex Charter Elementary School, Inc.”

Free Press gave a full report with the background when the application was presented the first time in the board meeting prior.

The move will give the charter’s board more control as other charters have and will release the district from an earlier agreement to pay a number of expenses of the main building at 500 W. Sheridan Ave.

It also provides for adding the eighth grade to the curriculum, a feature parents and administrators of the school have been wanting for several years.

“Fulfill our mission”

Free Press talked with Nathaniel Harding, the John Rex Board Chair after the OKCPS board meeting where the application was approved in a 6-0 vote.

“I think it helps us continue to fulfill our mission to serve the downtown community and with rigorous quality education,” said Harding.

“So, really we’re just pleased that …OKCPS voted unanimously to support this change because I also think it’s going to ensure the sustainability of our mission.

In this case, we were able to have a clear pathway to eighth grade,” he added. “A lot of families are thrilled about that.”

The school now has to take on more of the burden of paying for their utility costs and some other physical plant costs that the district had covered under the original start-up model.

But, Harding was confident they had the ability to handle it.

“Our five-year budget … shows a sustainable path to be able to keep rolling forward the savings in our bank account and to still provide all the services that we currently do,” said Harding.

Head of School

Dr. Joe Pierce
Dr. Joe Pierce, facing the camera, talks with supporters of John Rex School after the Nov 4 vote by the OKCPS BOE. Brett Dickerson/Okla City Free Press.

Dr. Joe Pierce, the Head of School since John Rex’s founding, will continue in that role.

We asked him about how they plan to reach out and make themselves known as an opportunity for those new families who have been added into the AEZ in a notch on the south end of the zone and by including a notch originally left out on the north end of the zone.

He said they plan to access the contact information that OKCPS has used to inform parents about Pathways to Greatness changes.

“We may send out the troops and just kind of walk and knock on doors,” said Pierce. “I don’t know yet what we’ll do, but we do want to get the word out.”

The district owns the building that was built with MAPS 3 money and funds raised from interested donors who wanted a school downtown.

Expansion

The school’s reach continues to expand with the middle school meeting in the Myriad Gardens Botanical Tube meeting rooms.

The McAlpine Center, 428 W. California, has been approved by the Oklahoma City Council for a ten-year lease provided the John Rex Board approves it in an upcoming meeting.

It was last the home of the Arts Council and the Arts Festival that have both moved.

The campus was originally built as the OKCFD headquarters, training center, and Station No. 1.


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