September 9, 2008
Many Suburban Schools See Enrollment Increases
By ANDREA EGER; SARA PLUMMER
Meanwhile, the total number of TPS students falls by about 350.Most suburban school districts opened their doors to more students this year, while Tulsa Public Schools lost more than 350 students, according to the latest enrollment data.
The Broken Arrow, Owasso and Bixby school districts posted the greatest gains, with 100 to 200 more students each.
Tulsa Public Schools' enrollment dropped 356 students to a total of 41,256.
The Tulsa district's middle schools posted a decrease of 415 students, or about 5 percent. The most dramatic loss occurred at Gilcrease, 5550 N. Cincinnati Ave., where there are 144 fewer students than in the 2007-08 academic year.
Principal Jolly Meadows said Gilcrease continues to suffer from negative public perception despite improvements in student achievement there in recent years.
"We did communicate with our parents by sending a letter home to let them know we made adequate yearly progress (according to state standards) this year, but often, letters are returned because the (students') addresses aren't current," Meadows said.
"We would like them to reconsider staying at the school."
The enrollment downturn at the middle school level was partially offset by modest increases at the elementary and high school levels, which were up 219 students and 31 students, respectively.
The greatest increase at any one elementary school was at Jones, which reopened in the fall of 2007 to help alleviate crowding at several east Tulsa schools. Jones, at 1515 S. 71st East Ave., has 274 students -- 82 more than last year.
Principal Howard Benyon said Jones received 1 1/2 additional teaching positions, as well as a new teacher's assistant to accommodate the growth. Benyon also is eagerly awaiting the arrival of a trailer to accommodate a first-grade class.
Recruiting efforts evidently paid off for the new career magnet programs at Hale and Webster high schools, which saw enrollment increases of 98 and 73 students, respectively.
Roberta Ellis, assistant to the superintendent for accountability for Tulsa Public Schools, said the ultimate goal of those magnet programs, as well as existing ones at Central and McLain high schools, is to attract students from the suburbs.
TPS secured a $12 million federal magnet-schools grant, and those funds are starting to pour into facility and curriculum improvements.
"It takes you a year to get that money, to get the programs really established," Ellis said. "It's hard to sell a dream when you can't see it yet."
But McLain Principal Jerome Williams said the recruiting efforts for the Hale and Webster magnet programs no doubt took a toll on enrollment at his school, which saw a decrease of 118 students. McLain, at 4929 N. Peoria Ave., now has just 522 students.
Williams said he hopes to develop a recruiting campaign to let parents and students know the academic strides his school has made, including meeting state standards and adding a Latin program for all sophomores.
"If McLain is doing what it needs to do, people are going to be coming back to this building," he said. "Our product will be the best ambassador for our program, and I think some of the negative stigma is already starting to wear off."
Enrollment has increased so much at Broken Arrow's Country Lane and Liberty elementary schools that a new fourth- and fifth-grade center is being built.
District spokesman Keith Isbell said students from other elementary schools also might be sent to the fourth- and fifth- grade center when it opens in 2009, depending on enrollment.
"Country Lane and Liberty are the focal point, but growth is (being seen) across the school district," he said.
About 200 more students are attending Broken Arrow schools this year, bringing to total number to 16,223, according to early enrollment numbers, with a peak expected in October.
Other school districts experiencing triple-digit growth are Bixby and Owasso, each with about 115 more students than last year.
Enrollment in the Jenks district is up by 38 students. It needs exactly 38 more students to reach a total enrollment of 10,000.
Lisa Muller, assistant superintendent of curriculum and school improvement for Jenks Public Schools, said classroom additions are being built at West Elementary and West Intermediate schools to accommodate that area's growth.
This year's ninth-grade class is the largest ever at the Jenks Freshman Academy, she said.
Other smaller suburban districts such as Berryhill, Liberty and Sapulpa saw a slight drop in enrollment.
Andrea Eger 581-8470
Sara Plummer 581-8465
Jenks expected to reach 10,000-student mark soon
Jenks Public Schools officials expect to reach the 10,000- student milestone over the next few weeks. Current enrollment is 9,962 students. Once enrollment reaches 10,000 students, the district will have to change its process of electing new board members from at-large voting to a ward voting system.
Originally published by ANDREA EGER AND SARA PLUMMER World Staff Writers.
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