By DAVID JONES
BUSY ASSISTANT: Owasso Public Schools Assistant Superintendent for Schools David Hall sees a positive future filled with challenges. He is working hard with Superintendent Clark Ogilvie to provide the best in education for Owasso students.
DAVID JONES for GTR Newspapers
Owasso Assistant Superintendent of Schools David Hall sees a future filled with challenges.
The school population keeps rising at a fairly steady rate of 4 percent a year. Additions are needed to keep pace but the cost of new schools determines that the present schools be expanded to handle the new students. The emphasis will be to increase the use of current facilities to maximum potential. “It takes a lot of money to build a new computer lab,” Hall notes.
The state legislature keeps passing regulations that add personnel or paperwork (often both) to the requirements the school must meet.
“This year, for example, House Bill 1051 prevents a student sex offender from attending the same school as the offender’s victim.” For a school district with one high school that presents a considerable logistical problem.
Another bill passed by the legislature addresses the burgeoning problem of early diabetes. Each diabetic student will be assigned to a committee that will monitor his or her progress. This will require manpower and expense.
And the expenses of a growing school district keep mounting. “We have a committee working on it,” says Hall, “and I think within the next month or so they’re going to recommend something in the line of a $42 million bond issue. We may put it to a vote before the end of the year.”
Space is tight in Owasso, so tight that private contractors hired by the city are teaching in off-campus facilities the 320 children currently enrolled in the four-year-old program. No full-day kindergarten is offered. That, at least, eases the strain on existing buildings.
Owasso currently has seven elementary schools covering kindergarten through fifth grades, a center each for the sixth, seventh and eighth grades, a mid-high school for ninth and tenth graders and a high school for grades 11 and 12 plus an alternative high school serving 50 students. Students in mid-high school can join activities in the high school, such as athletics, if they qualify.
The growing number of students will be served by new construction, much of it in two-story buildings. “We’re going to have to go up as well as out to make the best use of the space,” Hall says.
For high school students the construction, when it comes, will have one undesirable effect: Construction equipment will take up so many parking spaces that student parking will have to be curtailed. “We’ll probably have to forbid sophomores from driving to the parking lot.”
The ethnic composition of Owasso schools hasn’t changed much in recent years, Hall says. The current mix is about 79 percent Caucasian, 12 percent Native-American, five percent Hispanic, two percent African-American and one percent Asian.
It is an ambitious student body. “Somewhere in the range of 82 percent of our graduates attempt at least some college classes. For those who don’t want to go on to a traditional college we offer classes from Tulsa Technology Center. We have a very good relationship with Tulsa Community College and Rogers State College so our students can actually get college credits through concurrent enrollment while they are in high school.”
Owasso schools, like schools everywhere, find themselves immersed in subjects their student’s parents never knew. “From the sixth through the eighth grades we are emphasizing computers. Our students must be up to speed in keyboarding and have computer operation skills. To survive in the modern world they must be computer literate.”
The current state requirement for graduation has a core of four units of English and three each of math, social studies and science. Hall says that Owasso schools encourage four units of each subject. Foreign languages are also offered but computer classes can substitute for those credits.
With facilities being expanded how does Owasso plan to keep its students from simply being lost?
“As we grow larger we want to break our classes down to smaller units. We are trending to schools within schools with teachers as advisors to small numbers of students so that if a student does have a personal or scholastic problem he or she will have an adult they can turn to for help.”
“The breadth of education is changing. It used to be that when a person got a job they often had a job for life, retiring at 65 from a firm they had joined in their early 20s. What you are seeing now is such a change in jobs that most graduates must be prepared to have multiple job experiences during their working lifetime. We have to prepare them for that.”