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Around 330 fifth graders previously scheduled to attend Taft Middle School at NW 23rd Street and May Avenue will attend classes in the previously-closed Linwood Elementary at NW 16th and I-44.

It will be called “Taft 5th Grade Center” for the 2019-2020 school year.

Taft Principal Cody Stull will continue to be the principal responsible for the fifth graders with Taft Assistant Principal Amy Daughtery being the daily site leader for the center.

Crews were completing mowing, cutting saplings and tree limbs, and moving desks in on August 5 when Free Press first got a tip about the move.

Creation of the center is the most prominent in a series of adjustments being made across the district after the enrollment period opened July 29 through August 2 prior to the August 12 first day of school for the district.

Linwood move in from Taft Middle School
Moving trucks were in the parking lot and crews were completing trimming trees on the campus of the former Linwood Elementary Aug 5. Brett Dickerson/Okla City Free Press

Surprises

Oklahoma City Public Schools officials have been reluctant to discuss surprise high enrollments across the district after having partly based the Pathway to Greatness consolidation plan on predicted shrinking enrollment numbers.

But, the district did provide some information to Free Press as we persisted in our questions about the matter throughout this week.

District spokesperson Arely Martin informed Free Press that in addition to the Linwood re-opening, two other elementary schools closed under P2G were now being “re-purposed.”

Andrew Johnson and Horace Mann buildings will each become “Early Childhood partner program & OKCPS Pre-K Overflow” for neighboring schools that survived the P2G consolidation.

Putnam Heights Elementary, closed under P2G, has been reopened to accommodate moving the SeeWorth Alternative School after SeeWorth, Inc. suddenly yanked back permission to use the former campus at 12600 N. Kelley with only weeks to go before the start of school.

Letter to Parents

The district gave Free Press a copy of the letter Taft Principal Cody Stull sent parents of incoming 5th-graders.

Stull wrote that as enrollment progressed, “it became apparent that we were going to exceed our projected enrollment numbers and would need to make significant adjustments….”

In the letter, Stull waved off concerns that perhaps the Pathway to Greatness plan had not correctly anticipated Taft’s needs in consolidating schools.

Instead, he argued that there were other factors that contributed to the surprisingly high enrollment numbers.

Stated reasons

“About 200” of rising 8th grade students were allowed to finish out their middle school time at Taft under the “P2G Grandfather option” when new attendance boundaries would have pulled them to other middle schools.

Charters in the heart of the city made adjustments to their locations causing some parents to shift their students to Taft for transportation purposes.

A “significant number” of students “used a residency affidavit to adjust their attendance into Taft.”

Taft Middle School
Taft Middle School, Oklahoma City Public Schools. Brett Dickerson/Okla City Free Press

Stull also suggested in the letter that “…more and more questions around virtual education…” might have caused more parents to shift their enrollment to Taft.

The principal also cited “outstanding school leaders at Taft Middle School and Northwest Classen High School” as reasons more parents were enrolling their students.

He said they were “…doing great things in what was once a struggling part of our district, and our families are becoming more and more excited to be part of that renaissance inside of OKCPS.”

Reluctant statements

After several days of waiting for a response from the district, Free Press caught up with Deputy Superintendent Jason Brown at a media event intended to highlight improvements in the district’s bus services this school year.

We asked about the apparent enrollment surprises around the district.

Jason Brown
Jason Brown, deputy superintendent for Oklahoma City Public Schools answers questions at a media event about new buses in the district’s fleet. Brett Dickerson/Okla City Free Press

“Our current enrollment right now, five to six days before school starts, looks like it’s going to meet or exceed … projected numbers,” Brown told us.

“We would always accept growth,” he said. “Don’t you want students to come to your school? Yes. We would always accept growth.”

We asked him specifically about the Taft situation which affects the largest group of students.

“I’ve seen this happen over my 25 years of school experience,” Brown told us. “People move into a district and they want to enroll. And, also, you don’t get as much of that energy when they’re letting us know they moved out.”

He said that once school starts, they can get a more accurate read of what their numbers would be.

“If you’re going to have a problem, you want that people want to come to my school district,” said Brown. “We just want to provide the best education for them when they get there.”



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