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TPS speaks out about potential school closures

Posted at 5:44 PM, Dec 04, 2019
and last updated 2019-12-04 20:00:45-05

TULSA, Okla. — Tulsa Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Deborah Gist is speaking out after announcing the district may close four schools due to budget cuts.

TPS is facing a $20 million budget deficit. The district said it’s recommending closing Wright, Grimes, Jones and Mark Twain elementary schools. Tisdale Fine Arts Academy would absorb Mark Twain.

Parents and students are fighting back against Tulsa Public Schools. A group stood outside Wright Elementary School Wednesday afternoon holding signs and sending out a petition to keep the school open.

Tulsa Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Deborah Gist said closing the four schools would save $2 to $3 million.

“$2 million? That’s it? When the district will spend $19 million on administrative and consulting fees?" said Kelsey Royce, who is working to keep the Wright Elementary School open. "Can you put a price on the trauma of the children who will be displaced by this decision?”

Gist said the four schools potentially closing have a small number of students and are in small buildings. She said it’s better to have full schools that can provide more programs for students. She said the district isn’t making this recommendation lightly.

“Every decision that we’re making is going to have an effect," Gist said. "We just want to limit the direct impact on students and teachers as much as possible. Our community told us they wanted the same thing and so that’s what we did.”

Some are worried about how this could affect class sizes moving forward, but Gist said it’s not a big concern.

“Schools that are getting additional students will also get additional teachers and will have additional classrooms," she said.

Gist said the district’s whole money-saving plan will be revealed at a meeting Monday night. The plan also includes a reorganization at the district level.

“So, in some cases, it’s contracts or services or the way we do work," Gist said. "Or it might be staff. It might be other kinds of things. It’s a wide variety of different things.”

The decision to close these schools is not final. The school board will make a decision in January.

TPS is holding community meetings to discuss the budget redesign.

The first is Monday, Dec. 9 at 5:30 p.m. at the McLain High School Fieldhouse.

The second is Tuesday, Dec. 10 at 5:30 p.m. at the Memorial High School gym.

The third is Wednesday, Dec. 11 at 5:30 p.m. at the East Central High School gym.

The fourth is Thursday, Dec. 12 at 5:30 p.m. at the Webster High School Allen Fieldhouse.

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