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Union Boundary

Union's Ochoa Elementary Readies For School Year

COMMUNITY SCHOOL PHILOSOPHY: The $30-million Ellen Ochoa Elementary School, 12000 E. 31st St., will open Aug. 22 for the 2017-2018 school year. The school replaces Briarglen Elementary and has a current capacity of 500 students.

ROSSY GILLE for GTR Newspapers

On Aug. 22, Ellen Ochoa Elementary, 12000 E. 31st St., will open its doors to 500 students as Union Public Schools’ newest school. The school replaces Briarglen Elementary, Union’s very first elementary, which closed in June.

The Briarglen building, however, will continue to serve the community through a partnership with Community Action Project.

The school district broke ground on the new elementary school in July of last year. In March of this year, the Board of Education approved the school’s name in honor of Ellen Ochoa—the first Hispanic female astronaut and current director of the NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston. 

The school was built to address growth in the north central part of the district and free up elementary classroom space in other parts of the district, says Superintendent Dr. Kirt Hartzler. The school is also a first for the district in that it is Union’s first comprehensively-designed community school.

While Union’s other community schools were created after the buildings were built, “Ochoa Elementary was designed and constructed with community schools in mind,” he continues.

The school is energy-efficient with open learning corridors, “maker spaces” for project-based learning and a soon-to-be-built $12 million comprehensive Community Health Connection clinic. The facility will be constructed with Vision Tulsa funds and private funding and is expected to open in 2019.

The school also includes a test kitchen that will be available for public use and will allow nutrition classes and other instructional courses to be offered to the community.

“This school is another example of Union’s community school philosophy,” Hartzler says. “Ochoa will offer everything that the community needs, including health and wellness, education, public use. It will be full-service.”

If the 2018 bond issue is approved by Union patrons, Ochoa Elementary will then enter into Phase III, which will construct classrooms to accommodate another 500 students.
Among those who will be welcoming students to their new school will be Ochoa principal Rita Long and assistant principal Michele Spencer.

Long earned her master’s degree in math and science education from the University of Tulsa. She earned her Bachelor of Science in elementary education from Oklahoma State University.

She began her career at Jenks Public Schools in 1991 and served as a classroom teacher, gifted coordinator and curriculum resource instructor.

Long came to Union in 2006 as an assistant principal for Rosa Parks Elementary before transferring to McAuliffe Elementary in 2007. She served as McAuliffe’s principal from 2008 until 2017.

Spencer received her bachelor’s degree from Langston University and her master’s degree in education with an emphasis in English as a Second Language from the University of Central Oklahoma. She received her administrator certification through the University of Oklahoma.

Spencer has previously served as assistant principal at Briarglen Elementary School, the 6th/7th Grade Center and Jefferson Elementary. Spencer has been with Union since 2000, serving as a teacher in various capacities.

She was a fourth grade teacher at McAuliffe Elementary from 2000 to 2006 and served as a teacher and Language Arts Specialist at Rosa Parks Elementary from 2006 until 2013. She served as a Carrera Academic specialist for the 2013-2014 school year.

Updated 08-13-2017

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