“I wish a lot of people knew about this school,” Students, parents and faculty discuss beloved Oklahoma City middle school with hopes of increasing attendance

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OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – It’s more than a school. It’s a family.

That’s the dynamic at Independence Charter Middle School in Oklahoma City. It’s a small, but close-knit community where opportunities are endless and the students are excited about learning.

“I really love it here,” said Preston Dukes, a 7th grade student at ICMS.

“The relationships that people build here are ones that last for a lifetime,” said Candela Principi, an 8th grade student at ICMS.

Relationships- one of the many aspects that set Independence apart. Whether it be peer to peer or student and staff, everyone is known.

“Relationships are huge, because once kids know that they built that relationship, they walk through that door, it’s easy to fist pump someone that you have a relationship,” said ICMS coach Larry Stringer. “They’re going to feel excited about being here.”

Coach Larry Stringer and students playing a game at the ICMS gym. (Photo: KFOR)

Because everyone is known, everyone can be themselves and share what they’re passionate about. The teachers take notice- making an effort to include the students’ interests in the curriculum, like a new drone class coming to the 2021-2022 school year.

7th grade students Davis Cline and Aidan Pemberton are getting the opportunity to work with their teacher, Ms. Odom, on developing the class, along with the school’s partner: Boeing.

“This is a huge opportunity because not very many students get to do this,” said Pemberton.

Aidan Pemberton (left) and Davis Cline (right) fly drones in the ICMS gym. (Photo: KFOR)

When it comes to STEM, Indepence has got it covered.

Technology instructor, Benedria Smith, said their partnership with Amazon has allowed the opportunity for her students to learn how to create their own apps, using code.org.

“We’re working with sample apps. So the students are working on their own app proposals and they’re going to create an app that goes back into the programs,” said Smith. “So code.org collects all of these apps that students make and they put them back out there for other students to learn from.”

This opportunity is giving the students the basics that could start a computer science career.

ICMS students work on their own app proposals. (Photo: KFOR)

Two new STEM courses starting next year are biomedical and robotics. Both are part of Project Lead the Way, a program ICMS is able to institute with the help of community partner, Tinker Air Force Base.

“So if they ever want to go into any kind of medicine, or really any kind of engineering, this program is going to be really good for them. Any STEM field, this will be good for,” said Katherine Marshall, 7th grade science teacher at ICMS.

ICMS students use VR goggles in class. (Photo: KFOR)

The multitude of opportunities are a major plus for Independence parent, Sunshine Dukes.

“A parent couldn’t ask for more,” said Sunshine. “To be able to drop your child off, know that not only are they being taught and educated, but they are also being nurtured to be themselves.”

Despite the thriving educational atmosphere, Independence’s future is a bit uncertain.

Usually, the middle school receives more applications for students than available seats, but ever since Oklahoma City Public Schools started offering 5th grade in their middle schools, classroom space Independence currently doesn’t have, their new enrollment numbers have started to drop off.

“If we don’t have enough applications, we would have to have our teachers teaching two grades, possibly, and we might also have to look at what we call RIFing, and that’s Reduction in Force is what they call it in education, because it’s saying it’s not that you’re not great, it’s not that we don’t love you, it’s that we don’t have enough students to keep you on,” said Amanda Mann, Principal and Superintendent at ICMS.

Mann said Independence is a hidden gem and student Candela Principi agreed.

“I wish a lot of people knew about this school, because it has so many good things that it has to offer to those children that either need the extra help or want that extra boost,” said Principi.

There is still time before tough decisions have to be made- if they need to be made at all.

In the meantime, the message is this: keep up the excellence and enjoy this school year.

“It is an amazing school,” said Mann. “We have an amazing staff. Our students are phenomenal and we have all these opportunities, and so we wanted to let people know that we’re here and we’re doing some great things and we want them to come join us.”

ICMS is currently taking enrollment applications for the 2021-2022 school year. You can find them here.

Application forms are due by 4:00 P.M. April 5th, 2021.

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