Big changes to Oklahoma City Public Schools are coming with the district’s Pathway to Greatness plan with more than a dozen schools set to close.
The list of schools being closed or repurposed includes Centennial Middle School and Centennial High School, both of which opened in 2007. While neither of those schools had a long life, the list also includes more than a dozen elementary schools with plenty of history of their own that will come to an end at the conclusion of this semester.
Cue up the Boyz to Men. Here are some historical nuggets on some of the closing OKCPS schools. Scroll to the right to view each school.
13Horace Mann Elementary
Opened in 1923, Horace Mann Elementary (1105 N.W. 45th St.) is among the oldest schools in the system. Mann became a passionate advocate for public schools growing up with limited educational opportunities in 19th century Massachusetts. Former Brooklyn Dodgers infielder Bobby Morgan is among the OKCPS school’s most accomplished alumni. Morgan played on two World Series teams.
12Andrew Johnson Elementary
When Andrew Johnson Elementary (1810 Sheffield Road) opened in the 1950s, a local concrete company took ads out in the paper advertising its “Beautiful and fire safe!” concrete blocks used in the school’s construction.
In 1984, a first grade teacher at Johnson waged a public fight with the district’s school board to stop her transfer to another school based on Johnson’s enrollment numbers. That year, the district faced a $3 million budget shortfall and transferred more than 100 teachers to different schools to accommodate students.
11Putnam Heights Elementary
Putnam Heights Elementary (1601 N.W. 36th St.)has been here before. Slated for closure in 1987, parents helped save the school with determined opposition. It also has some explosive history.
In 1959, a bomb threat called into Oklahoma City police led to an unexpected afternoon away from school. A decade later, a small explosive device detonated in the school’s parking lot and damaged a trailer. There were no injuries.
10Pierce Elementary School
When parents sent their kids off to the first day of school at Franklin Pierce Elementary (2701 S. Tulsa Ave.) in September 1956, they were asked not to arrive early because the school’s playground was incomplete.
Red Book included Pierce on its list of top public schools in America in 1991. It also once had a principal who dressed up as a clown named Sparkles.
9Edgemere Elementary School
There’s been a school called Edgemere in Oklahoma City since 1911, according to its website. It survived a 1987 plan to close the school despite its boiler being obsolete and the presence of asbestos in the building.
Areda Tollivar participated in the 1958 Katz Drugstore sit-in as an 11-year-old and later became a teacher at Edgemere. In recent years, the Edgemere building (3200 N. Walker Ave.) served as a temporary home for students displaced during MAPS for Kids construction before becoming a “community school” with additional partnerships but limited enrollment.
8Gatewood Elementary School
Gatewood Elementary (1821 N.W. 21st St.) opened in 1927. Nearly two decades later, the school finally included a parking lot and a playground with asphalt, which was a big deal in 1946.
In 1953, a flu epidemic swept through Oklahoma City, and Gatewood was among the hardest schools hit with more than 25 percent of its students home sick. In 1956, four Gatewood students survived a private plane crash that killed their father, a local oil executive.
Like Johnson, Edgemere and other OKCPS schools, Gatewood was targeted for closure in 2017 but survived when the district abandoned its plans. Not so in 2019.
7Sequoyah Elementary School
Opened in 1932, Sequoyah Elementary School (2400 N.W. 36th St.) features many of the same amenities found at most schools.
But it also has a fallout shelter built in the 1950s capable of accommodating more than 2,000 people. In the accomplished alumni department, former Sequoyah student Erik Logan grew up to be president of Oprah Winfrey’s production company.
6Edwards Elementary School
Edwards Elementary (1123 N.E. Grand Blvd.) was known as “Edwards Negro Elementary School” in its early days. The first school building was nothing more than a one-room prefab.
The district approved plans for a permanent structure in 1951. In 1973, four of the school’s classrooms were destroyed by arson.
5Rancho Village Elementary School
Rancho Village Elementary (1401 Johnston Dr.) opened in 1949. It cost $175,000 to build, which may not seem like much for a school, but that is about $1.8 million in today’s dollars. Rancho Village later became the site for disabled students who lived in the southern section of the OKCPS district.
4Oakridge Elementary School
Opened in 1965, Oakridge Elementary School (4200 Leonhardt Dr.) faced closure in the 1980s.
In better times, Thunder star Russell Westbrook funded a reading room for the school.
3Telstar Elementary School
Perhaps the most uniquely named school in Oklahoma City, Telstar Elementary (9521 N.E. 16th St.) opened in 1963 and gets its name from a communications satellite launched the year before. When the name was selected, school board member Melvin Rogers said the aim was to reflect the era in which it was built. Mission accomplished.
2Linwood Elementary School
Opened in the 1930s, Linwood’s enrollment quickly grew. In 1946, parents of students and the district’s board got in a row over substandard additional classroom space that had been set up to deal with overcrowding. In 1969, Linwood became one of the first Oklahoma City schools to experiment with busing.
1Centennial Middle School and High School
Unfortunately for Centennial High School and Middle School (1301 N.E. 101st St.), they weren’t around long enough to have accumulated a ton of history, but NonDoc contributor John Thompson wrote about his experiences teaching there.
Both schools opened 12 years ago. They were part of the MAPS for Kids effort passed by Oklahoma City voters. The school cost millions in new construction costs and is one of the most glaring examples of the problems MAPS for Kids has encountered. The building could become the new home of Harding Charter Preparatory High School.