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‘It’s not about the school, it’s about the kids,’ Community prepares for possible elementary closure

OKLAHOMA CITY -- Facing the possibility the community elementary school could close, Danny Howard is trying to take the glass-half-full sort of approach.

"It's not about the school, it's about the kids," said Howard, a parent, who himself attended North Highland Elementary, near Britton Rd. and Broadway Extension. "So if it's all about improving education and improving my neighborhood or local neighborhoods around here, I'm with it."

Those are the results Oklahoma City Public Schools is hoping for with its proposal to temporarily close North Highland, which Superintendent Aurora Lora described as a "school in crisis."

Under Lora's proposal, North Highland's 350 students would begin attending Britton Elementary in the fall.

The move is necessary, Lora said, because North Highland is lacking a principal and has no qualified candidates for the position. The office staff has resigned and only four core teachers are scheduled to return, according to a district press release.

With only five weeks left before the school year begins, OKCPS doesn't have the time to staff the school with people who can set the school up for success, according to the release.

"I think it's best," said Howard. "If you can't have good teachers and principals that want to do it, that's living for it, that want to help these kids prosper or grow as far as education-wise, I think that's a good idea until we're able to find someone that wants to do it."

Former North Highland teachers tell NewsChannel 4 the staff is not the problem.

"Nothing could prepare you for the things you face at North Highland," said Stephanie Jackson Giliam, who taught there from 2009-2014.

Though the school has resources like SmartBoards, document cams, Kevin Durant-donated basketball courts and newly renovated gyms, it lacks the support for teachers who are not trained for the environment, she said.

Frequent administrative turnover doesn't make things easier for teachers, Giliam said.

OKCPS plans to send two full-time counselors, two full-time social workers and two assistant principals to Britton as support staff, the district said.

The move must still be approved by the school board, which will first be able to consider the plan Monday.

A spokeswoman for the district told NewsChannel 4 North Highland is the only school facing this issue.