In anticipation of more budget cuts the superintendent of Oklahoma City Public Schools has proposed closing five schools to save money.
State budget problems forced Oklahoma's largest school district to cut $30 million out of their budget last year, and superintendent Aurora Lora said the district is facing upwards of $10 million in cuts next year.
Lora said the district cut hundreds of employees last year, put off buying new textbooks, cut music, art, and athletic programs, and the district can't do that again this year, so they're now looking to save $1.2 million by closing schools with low enrollment.
"We are at a point where we are going to have to look at deeper more systemic options because right now we are not getting enough funding to fund our school district," Lora said at Monday night's board meeting.
The proposed school closings include:
- Edgemere Elementary
- FD Moon Academy
- Gatewood Elementary
- Green Pastures Elementary
- Johnson Elementary
The schools above all have fewer than 300 students in them, and have other schools close by that could take the students. The plan also proposes transitioning Northeast Academy into a neighborhood middle school, which will serve the Douglass feeder pattern.
Lora said consolidating schools and classes can lead to permanent cost reduction from reduced administration, utilities, custodial, and staff costs.
But some school board members disagree over which schools should be closed, and want to see a demographic study before they make a decision.
Lora said a demographic study will likely take months, and she's trying to make these decisions now so that the district doesn't have to cut more staff and resources next school year.
But board member Gloria Torres said two weeks isn't enough time to make such an important decision. She said the district opened a brand new high school a few years ago that was already over capacity when it opened. And she doesn't want to see something like that happen again.
Oklahoma City Public Schools will hold a series of community meetings over the next few weeks to take input.
Superintendent Lora will present her final recommendations to the board on March 30th, and the board will vote on each school closing individually on April 6th.