With several buildings being open after the Pathways to Greatness consolidation, the private and charter school building shuffle began in earnest Monday night for Oklahoma City Public Schools.
The vote of the OKCPS Board set in motion the moves of several existing charters into the now-open buildings around the district and made leasing district property to private schools a possibility.
The Board voted 7-0 in favor of a new OKCPS policy that would allow the lease or sale of district buildings to private schools.
The move represented a dramatic change that could have far-reaching ramifications for the future.
Previous policy prohibited any consideration of such agreements.
The specific changes involved just one sentence. The additional phrase added to the original policy wording is in italics and bold below.
“No building shall be used for private school (K-12 grade levels or in competition with district pre-kindergarten programs), with the exception that the Board of Education may take specific contrary action when it determines that the private school services are not in direct competition.“
Scott Randall, Chief Operating Officer for the district explained those changes to Free Press prior to the Board meeting Monday.
“We have some very unique things that kind of go into play,” said Randall about the possibilities for the new policy.
“It opens up the door for that to be a discussion. Prior to this change in policy that was not open for discussion regardless of the situation that you’re dealing with in a particular school.”
Randall said the key to future consideration for determining if a school is in direct competition is whether they “are actively recruiting our students, or are actively seeking to grow their student population.”
Private school – public building
Now that the policy has been changed, the Board will consider leasing the now-empty Edgemere School to Trinity School, a specialized private school for students with various learning challenges.
It’s one example Randall pointed to as a school that does not compete with other schools.
Randall said the school’s goal is to help students move back into OKCPS schools, not take them away.
Trinity School has been using the former Youth Center at First Christian Church at 3600 N. Walker Ave. No official with the school was immediately available for comment.
Kelly Pearson, a volunteer at Edgemere Elementary Community School for many years, told Free Press in a text message that she was glad to see Trinity coming into the Edgemere space.
“I am still sad that the district failed to see the progress and promise of the community school at Edgemere,” wrote Pearson. “The Friends of Edgemere and it’s community partners didn’t fail the children at Edgemere School.”
She went on to say, though, that she was “…very happy that students will once again walk the halls of Edgemere School.”
“Because they [Trinity staff] work with a distinct population of kids with learning differences that range from ADHD to Dyslexia and sensory issues, I think the small school size is a plus for them and having the new PE/safe room is a real plus,” said Pearson.
Harding Fine Arts charter
Still in limbo is the future home of Harding Fine Arts Academy, which had been sub-leasing their space at the Harding High School building from Harding Charter Prep.
But, as of the Board meeting Monday, Harding Charter Prep is on the way to the former Centennial High School building, which means Harding Fine Arts will need to make some sort of other arrangements.
The Harding building was declared surplus property by the district earlier in the year and bids for the building are due July 1.
Harding Fine Arts Superintendent Barry Schmelzenbach told Free Press that the school has been actively preparing to make a bid on the Harding building by the deadline.
Even though the building’s appearance appeals to many, OKCPS considered it to be too old and too much in need of repairs to continue to try and keep it up.
But, Schmelzenbach said the Harding Fine Arts board “…is confident that through ownership we can provide for the very real needs of the Harding building.”
He said that they took a preliminary ADG report and did further investigations.
“We did a comprehensive structural, mechanical, electrical evaluation and then partnered with a major contractor that’s versed in these types of renovations to determine is this viable,” Schmelzenbach said.
They have informed district staff that they will make a bid on the building after submitting a 100-page report on how they propose to update the building and make it survive for many more years to come.
Update: Due to wrong information given to us by the district’s Media Relations department, the original version of this story said that the lease of the Edgemere property to Trinity School was passed Monday night. It was not, and will be considered in a future meeting of the Board.