August 14, 2008

School Year Filled With Changes


TPS rings the bell for classes Monday

It's only the second week of August, but school is officially back in session for Tulsa Public Schools beginning Monday.

The opening of the 2008-09 school year will be marked with cuts in bus routes and increases in school meal prices, as the district grapples with rising fuel and food costs. But new federal funding is boosting educational opportunities at four high school magnet programs and putting police work into the hands of a newly established campus police department.

Calendar shift

The first day of school comes one week earlier than usual this year.

When the school board approved the 2008-09 calendar in January, district officials said the shift was needed so the first semester would end in December, rather than a week or so after students return from winter break in January.

Also, the early start gives teachers one week longer to prepare their students for standardized tests, which are administered each April.

Jim Spear, chief operations officer for TPS, said the earlier start isn't expected to cost the district too much extra in utilities because temperatures are expected to be below average this week.

We are just thankful it's not going to be 100 degrees next week. That will save us on utilities, make it safe for students walking to and from school and we will be able to let them go outside and play like they will want to do," Spear said.

Transportation cuts

The district is ending door-to-door bus service for elementary school students who are enrolled in the Project Accept alternative education program and cutting back bus service for middle and high school students to save about $813,000 in fuel costs.

Project Accept students now will be served by bus routes for traditional elementary school students.

Middle- and high-schoolers, meanwhile, will now have to walk as far as two miles to school, instead of the previous 1 1/2-mile maximum.

The following bus stops have been added in response to parent concerns about safety issues at dangerous intersections:

Students at Booker T. Washington High School, Carver Middle School and Thoreau Demonstration Academy can catch the bus at Eisenhower International School, 2819 S. New Haven Ave.

Students at Byrd Middle School can catch a bus at the intersection of East 50th Street and South 87th East Avenue.

Students at Key Elementary School can catch a bus at Bethany Lutheran Church, 4615 S. Darlington Ave.

Spear said: "If parents have a concern about their child's bus stop, the transportation department will send a supervisor to go out and take a look at it. Our first priority is for students to get to and from school safely, so we take parents' concerns into consideration every day."

Parents may contact the TPS transportation department at 833- 8100.

More information about school bus routes is available online at

Meal prices increase

Tulsa's school meal prices are increasing this year, with breakfast up 10 cents to $1.10 for elementary, middle and high schools; elementary school lunches up 10 cents to $1.80; and middle and high school lunches up to $2.25.

Referral process change

Tulsa students and their parents will be given new options in the event of an out-of-school referral for alternative education program or suspension of 10 days or more.

A new district review committee that has been established will ultimately decide whether students should enroll in an alternative school, be placed on long-term, out-of-school suspension or return to their home school. Previously such decisions were made by administrators at the student's home school.

Students will be placed in their home school's In-School Intervention, or ISI, program while their referral is reviewed, unless they pose a danger to other people. They will also undergo a psychological interview and academic assessment to be considered for enrollment at the Tulsa Academic Center or other alternative education programs.

Parents will be given the options of refusing their child's assignment to an alternative school or appealing their child's out- of-school suspension.

Magnet schools grant

New magnet programs are being established at Hale and Webster high schools, while existing ones at Central and McLain high schools are being overhauled, thanks to a nearly $12 million grant through the U.S. Department of Education Magnet Schools Assistance program.

Hale's program offers students specialized training in hotel, restaurant and health management, while Webster's program is in broadcasting and digital media. McLain's magnet focus is on science and technology, while Central's is in fine arts.

TPS spokeswoman Tami Marler said Webster's television studio and other facility upgrades are set for completion in September, while a new commercial kitchen and small restaurant is set for completion at Hale by the end of December.

"Their curriculum is set to go; it's the facilities we're still working on," Marler said.

Campus police department

Congress is giving TPS $500,000 for uniforms, patrol cars and other equipment and supplies to help establish its own campus police department.

So far, the district has constructed police department offices and a holding area at the Education Service Center and hired a police chief, criminal investigator and one officer.

Applications for police officer positions are still being accepted.

Classes begin

Monday: Tulsa Public Schools

Tuesday: Glenpool

Wednesday: Broken Arrow, Catoosa, Owasso, Skiatook, Sperry

Thursday: Berryhill, Bixby, Claremore, Collinsville, Jenks, Union

Aug. 20: Sand Springs, Sapulpa

Andrea Eger 581-8470

[email protected]

Originally published by ANDREA EGER World Staff Writer.

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