Hi Steve! I know Jeff Bezdek has sent some Emerson School photos to you, and I hope you saw the “Point of View” article in today’s Oklahoman from Linda Terrell, the E.D. of my organization, the Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy.
We understand that the OKC School Board will vote on the two MAPS for Kids “options” for the Emerson School renovation at their regular board meeting this Monday, April 19 (5:30 p.m. at 900 N. Klein). The only viable course to pursue is Option 2 — removing the 25-year-old deteriorating (and rodent-infested) portable buildings and build a new wing that meets the needs of the program for pregnant and parenting students and the other alternative education program for students who, for various reasons, are not able to be in their regular school setting.
As you know from attending the January community meeting, the initial design for Option 2 was not created with any input from students, teachers, administrators, or the community. The designers said it was based on a “typical” high school, and it clearly did not reflect the “best practice” thinking re: the needs of alternative education or programs for pregnant/parenting students.
Bottom line for the school district: It has the funds and the opportunity to take the 100+ year-old school facility and create a learning center that will help some of the district’s most challenged young people (academically and in their person life situations) complete their education, graduate from high school, and get their lives back on a positive and hopeful path. Last spring, the Oklahoma state legislative leaders removed the funding for the on-site health clinic at Emerson that provided important pre and post-natal education and services for over 200 pregnant and parenting students and their babies — some of the youngest, poorest and neediest parents in the state. This spring, our community can start rebuilding the school to better meet the needs of those young people and their babies.
Bottom line for the city and downtown/midtown redevelopment: We have the opportunity to transform Emerson School — inside, through MAPS for Kids funding — and outside, as part of the overall plan for streetscape/landscape improvements.
Thanks so much! – Sharon Rodine
Youth Initiatives Director
Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy
STEVE’S COMMENTS: Remember how voters were promised in the MAPS for Kids campaign that all of these trailers would disappear from Oklahoma City Public Schools? It would be interesting to hear what former Mayor Kirk Humphreys and current Mayor Mick Cornett has to say about this.
Here is what I wrote in January:
Options seem limited for downtown school
By Steve Lackmeyer
Tuesday, January 19, 2010
Edition: CITY, Section: BUSINESS, Page 8B
Angela Banks, 16, likely will never get to enjoy learning in an Emerson High School renovated by MAPS for Kids.
But that didn’t stop the student from participating in an hourlong public forum last week in which residents, educators and civic leaders discussed what should be done with one of the city’s oldest schools.
Some decisions already have been made — most notably that the former elementary will remain an alternative high school for teen moms and troubled students, even though it has no gymnasium or other accommodations found at other high schools. And educators would prefer to see the two programs separated, but plans that keep the two programs together are proceeding.
When the school was built in 1911 at 715 N Walker Ave., residents questioned why it was being built so far away from downtown and out in the country. Now, it’s truly the only school considered to be downtown.
Yet it is truly a step-child in the MAPS for Kids program. Remember the promises made that no “temporary” metal shack buildings will remain when MAPS for Kids is completed? Apparently that’s not quite the case for the kids at Emerson.
Banks told designers the outside buildings are cold, and are a poor place to learn with walls proving to be too thin to block outside noise. Yet, under design option 1, the outside buildings remain in place. But program manager Bob Myers with Architectural Design Group promised Banks and fellow students they are pushing for option 2, in which the outside buildings are eliminated for good.
For downtowners, these shacks are a simple annoyance — an eyesore that sticks out more and more as the surrounding area is redeveloped.
But the shacks represent that so many more needs exist for these kids — young moms and dads who are still trying to complete their education.
More space is needed for the attached day care, and the young expectant mothers would love to see the return of an on-site clinic.
Banks and fellow students also would love to see the same sort of physical education accommodations provided at other high schools. One must wonder whether more could be accomplished by building an all-new high school for these kids with special needs and let the building go back to being an elementary.
All of this, meanwhile, is of interest to nearby developers who would have preferred to see Emerson turned back into an elementary since one is promised as part of MAPS for Kids.
But if last week is any hint of where things are heading, that option has quietly been taken off the table (if it were ever there at all), and those who follow Banks still will attend a school that might have made a great elementary but still won’t be up to the standards set for other high schools.