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Several schools in Oklahoma City may close due to budget crisis

OKLAHOMA CITY - While many state agencies are dealing with budget cuts due to a nearly $900 million budget shortfall, one local district may be looking at drastic measures to save money.

Oklahoma City Public School leaders are looking at closing several schools in Oklahoma City to help with the budget cuts.

Emma Holeman has lived across the street from Martin Luther King Junior Elementary in N.E. Oklahoma City for 50 years.

"I love to get out here, and sit on the porch and watch the kids when they get out of school. They are smiling, and laughing, and talking and everything," Holman said.

While MLK isn't being recommended for closure, its role would be to take students from Moon Academy if the school board approves a new consolidation plan.

The district superintendent is recommending closing Moon Academy, Edgemere Elementary, Gatewood Elementary, Johnson Elementary and Green Pastures Elementary in Spencer.

Northeast Academy would close as a high school and reopen as a middle school.

"Due to continued budget challenges and low enrollment, I am recommending the consolidation of these schools," said Oklahoma City Schools Superintendent Aurora Lora. "We have looked at schools with enrollment of 300 or fewer students and the financial impact of keeping those schools open. We estimate nearly $250,000 in savings for each school closing, via reduced utility, staff, administrative, and custodial costs. Consolidating some of our smaller schools will also provide additional educational resources for the students who end up in larger schools, including additional support staff, access to more fine arts and athletic programs, and improved opportunities for teachers to collaborate."

Lora is expected to present the recommendations to the Oklahoma City Public School Board during Monday night's meeting.

Students who attend the schools recommended for closure will be reassigned to other schools within the district.

Under the plan, K-4th students from FD Moon Academy would attend Martin Luther King Elementary, Thelma R. Parks Elementary and Edwards Elementary.

FD Moon students in the 5th and 6th grade would go to Douglas Mid-High.

Northeast Academy students would also be sent to Douglas Mid-High.

Students at Green Pasture Elementary would also be divided.

K-4th students living south of N.E. 36th would go to Telstar Elementary, while those living north of N.E. 36th St. would attend Spencer Elementary.

Green Pastures students in the 5th and 6th grade would attend Rogers Middle School.

If Edgemere is closed, students would attend Martin Luther King Elementary School.

"The people that I represent are tired of the school district closing schools and then leaving the buildings abandoned," said John Pettis.

Pettis is the councilman from Ward 7.

He was also part of the northeast task force charged with the job of improving education at schools in northeast Oklahoma City.

"It is not the recommendation of the task force to determine what schools will be closed. The school district wanted us to do that, but the task force said no," he said.

Pettis said the task force was not given enough information from the schools board to recommend closures, but he said the task force had another job.

"The task force recommended that when the school district closes a school that that savings are reinvested back into northeast Oklahoma City schools," Pettis said.

It's unclear if that will happen with the state strapped for cash.

Pettis said all the schools recommended for closure are dealing with declining enrollment.

"Here's a school district in the past number of years that has gone through almost 10 superintendents since so, when you have a new leader, things change but, unfortunately, nothing has produced and provided a true quality education in northeast Oklahoma City," he said.

“The proposal to consolidate schools is an unfortunate byproduct of the Legislature’s failure to find long-term funding solutions for public education. Ongoing cuts to state funding have forced school administrators into making very difficult decisions. The Foundation for Oklahoma City Public Schools will continue to work with generous community partners who understand the value of our schools and our children. We need our partners to help fill the gap, and we hope our elected officials will find a way to give our schools the support they deserve.” - Mary Mélon, president and CEO of The Foundation for Oklahoma City Public Schools.

At this point, these are just recommendations the superintendent will present to the board Monday night.

The board would have to approve any school closures.

If approved, the changes would be in effect for the upcoming school year starting in August.

Officials said the district was forced to identify $30 million worth of cuts last spring and they expect an additional $4 million to $10 million in cuts due to the revenue failure.

For more information on the consolidation plan and meetings, click here.