OKLAHOMA CITY - Parents of students in Oklahoma City Public Schools voiced their concerns about the district's plan to realign and close as many as 18 schools, for a second night in as many days, organized specifically for Spanish speakers.
Several hundred people filled the auditorium at U.S. Grant High School on the city's south side Thursday evening, with questions directed at district officials carrying on late into the evening. Of the district's 46,000 students, more than half come from Spanish-speaking backgrounds. Thursday evening, parents raised numerous concerns about the looming closures of neighborhood schools and the impact the closures will have on their communities.
"Right now we're anxious and nervous on how it will affect us. More than anything, the families. Are kids going to have transportation? That's what I'm, personally, anxious about," said Hortencia Duran, who has two children in two different schools, one of which will close under all three proposals the district is moving forward with. "How are the classes going to be? Crowded or less crowded? Will they get the attention they need?"
Duran's daughter, Maria, is a freshman at Oklahoma Centennial. Duran said her biggest concern is how will the changes the district intends to make will impact her daughter's transportation needs, and if the changes would impact her son who goes to Britton Elementary.
"They already know the bus schedule. My husband takes them to the bus stop, so I don’t know how this will affect them. I work from six in the morning until noon. My husband, it varies. Sometimes he has to go in to work later," said Duran. "It's really good the plans mean there will be more sports, physical education, for the students. But are we going to have to relocate them ourselves or does the district have plans for where the schools will be relocated to?”
After the district's Pathway to Greatness project was presented, parents lined up to ask questions and not afraid to voice their displeasure seeing neighborhood schools - like Shidler Elementary, which would close under one of the three options - close. Some added that closing schools is not a good solution, despite the district's plans to re-purpose closed schools as community centers, childcare centers, or for use by the City-County health department to provide medical needs to the communities.
"It looks like there are going to be changes for our kid's educations. Sometimes changes are inconvenient because our kids are set in a routine," said Miguel Jurado, who has a child in 6th grade at Shidler.
Despite the changes, Jurado said he can see the positives from the plans, adding its important for the district to engage parents on the issues the district faces.
"Parents like us have to be interested in our children’s education. Parents are the ones who are always working, attending meetings and, sometimes, some parents don't know what’s happening with their children, or how they're doing in school," Jurado said. "It's good that they're having this meeting to get parents involved."
The district will hold additional meetings next week to present and discuss the plans: Monday at 6:00 p.m. at Star Spencer High School, Tuesday at 6:00 p.m. at Douglass High School, and Wednesday at 6:00 p.m. at NW Classen High School. Each meeting will be conducted in English with Spanish translations available.
Yajaira Castillo De Leon contributed to this report