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District working to find partners for 15 schools facing closure

OKLAHOMA CITY -- Superintendent Dr. Sean McDaniel says he understands money has been invested into some Oklahoma City public schools now facing closure.

"It is a fair assessment to sit back and say, 'wait a minute, we just sunk a bunch of money into this building and they’re closing it," Dr. McDaniel said. "So, we’ve got to come back and say, 'but that money that we sunk into to build it up, to enhance it…you and that community, we’re still going to be able to use it'."

Earlier this week, a recommended plan was announced by Dr. McDaniel as part of the Pathway To Greatness project which includes the closure of 15 schools in the Oklahoma City Public School district. The plan, according to McDaniel, is to re-purpose them without wasting the money that has already been invested.

"In Putnam Heights, we spent bond money that`s represented in those numbers on things like technology for example. That technology will move to another school, so our kids are still going to get to enjoy that bond expenditure," he said.

Oklahoma City's "MAPS For Kids" was established in 2001, when voters approved a new tax to fund repairs and renovations to public schools.

"So, there was about $540 million from that one cent sales tax that ended in 2009," MAPS program manager David Todd said. "There was millions of dollars spent on a lot of schools in not only Oklahoma City but the suburban schools."

According to Todd, repairs were made on some of the 15 schools that face closure.

McDaniel said while they can reuse equipment, they cannot move gyms and classrooms so the idea is to re-purpose them into community centers and clinics, for example.

"The very people who voted on the bonds to get those things done will be the people who get to enjoy the experience of a repurposed building," he said. "Once the vote occurs on March 4, then we will sit down and begin the contract piece of this to see what the terms are and how quickly we can get the people in, and what type of assistance they need and what type of financial structure and all those things."

Though confident, McDaniel admits repurposing all 15 school buildings is not a guarantee. However, he said they've had many conversations with potential partners.

"It is a target. It is a goal that we've had from the very beginning," he said. "With that visual in mind that when we've closed buildings before, we've put boards on windows and fenced in the property and you see weeds growing up. We did not want to do that."

When asked about the potential of demolishing buildings that could potentially not be repurposed, the school district said they "never say never" though demolition is not part of the plan.

The board will vote on McDaniel’s recommendation on March 4. Families and staff are invited to attend the following informational meetings prior to the vote:

  • Monday, Feb. 25: Capitol Hill High School, 6:30 p.m. (presented in Spanish)
  • Tuesday, Feb. 26: U.S. Grant High School, 4:30 p.m. (OKCPS staff) & 6:30 p.m. (community)
  • Wednesday, Feb. 27: NW Classen High School, 4:30 p.m. (OKCPS staff) & 6:30 p.m. (community)
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