Tahlequah Daily Press

October 9, 2013

TPS forum unveils options for elementary reconfiguration

By SEAN ROWLEY
Staff Writer

TAHLEQUAH — More than 100 people heard a presentation Monday evening from the Tahlequah Public Schools superintendent about the future of the district’s four elementary sites.

Lisa Presley discussed a series of plans under consideration by a committee she has assembled to deliberate the reconfiguration of the campuses.

“We started out with nine plans, but the committee has rejected six,” Presley said. “Some didn’t allow room for growth or were inefficient, so these are the three plans we are considering.”

Perhaps the most contentious issue within any elementary school reconfiguration is the potential reassignment of Sequoyah from its role as a prekindergarten center. The alignment has support among parents and teachers as an effective introduction to the academic environment for children, and is worth its cost, which Presley said was nearly $300,000 per year, sans staff salaries.

Two plans, “Option 7” and “Option 9,” call for maintaining Sequoyah as a pre-k facility.

“Option 8” would close Sequoyah as a prekindergarten, but the building would still be used for administration and house the Cherokee Nation Head Start program for 3-year-olds.

Under Option 8, Greenwood and Cherokee elementary schools would be for pre-k through second grade, while Heritage Elementary would instruct all the district’s third-, fourth- and fifth-graders.

Some in the audience were not enthusiastic about all children in three grades being assigned to the district’s southernmost school, and were concerned about Sequoyah’s possible closure. Presley said Option 8 would produce the most savings and made allowance for increases in enrollment.

Option 9 would send the fourth and fifth grades to Heritage, while Greenwood and Cherokee would handle kindergarten through third grade. Presley said the plan would produce less savings than Option 8.

The only major adjustment in Option 7 is part of all three plans: The district wants to close the Fifth-Grade Center at Tahlequah Middle School and move those classes back to the elementary schools. Presley said Option 7 was “the simplest” but would produce the least savings.

Presley said the district also has the fourth option of “doing nothing.”

“I do realize that none of these plans are perfect,” she said.

“They all have cons. But I would hope that we choose to be proactive and not reactive to the growth of our district.”

During a question-and-answer period, some skepticism and frustration were expressed by parents and teachers over the previous reconfiguration’s lasting only two years.

They asked whether any reconfiguration would produce savings, and were concerned about moving teachers to different schools, zoning or districting, and transit times for parents transporting children to three or four schools.

Presley said those with questions or who wish to voice support for one - or none - of the reconfiguration plans can call her office at (918) 458-4100 or click on the “Contact” link at tahlequahschools.org to send a message.

She said the committee would hear all input from the public.

She also said the audience queries were giving her a general impression.

“‘Neighborhood schools’ is what I’m hearing from you tonight,” she said to applause.

srowley@tahlequahdailypress.com