What will become of Wilson Middle School? Public meeting Tuesday, July 12, 2011

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Tulsa Public Schools is holding a public forum on Tuesday, July 12, 2011, 6 to 7 pm, regarding the sale of Wilson Middle School, one of 14 school buildings closed at the end of the last school year as part of the district's cost-cutting plan. The forum will be held at Kendall-Whittier Elementary School, 2601 E. 5 Pl. Here's the news release with the details:

Wilson_MS.jpgFOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

PRESS RELEASE: Tuesday, July 5, 2011

What: TPS to host 'Neighborhood Connection' forum to discuss sale of Wilson building
When: Tuesday, July 12, 2011, 6-7 p.m.
Where: Kendall-Whittier Elementary School, 2601 E. 5 Pl.
Contact: Chris Payne at 918-858-4680 or cpayne@saxum.com

TULSA, Okla. - Tulsa Public Schools has announced it will host a Neighborhood Connection meeting to open dialogue with the community regarding the sale of the former Wilson Middle School property located at 1127 S. Columbia Ave. The meeting is open to TPS parents, students and the community at large and will take place Tuesday, July 12, from 6-7 p.m., in the media center of Kendall-Whittier Elementary School, 2601 E. 5 Pl. in Tulsa.

Wilson is among the 14 properties that have been or will be closed as a result of Project Schoolhouse. Proceeds from the sale of these closed properties will add to the projected $5.6 million in savings from Project Schoolhouse and will help the district weather recent cuts to educational funding by the state legislature.

"As we look at the potential sale of some of these school buildings, we want to have a dialogue with the community to ensure we are protective of these neighborhoods," said Dr. Keith Ballard, superintendent of TPS. "It's important that we get feedback and input regarding potential uses from TPS parents and homeowners at the Neighborhood Connection forums. We look forward to hearing what the community has to say, as we investigate the possibilities regarding the sale of Wilson."

Trish Williams, TPS chief financial officer, and Millard House, deputy superintendent, will represent TPS at the July 12 forum. They will explain the bidding process as mandated by state law and the general category of prospective buyers that are participating in the bid process for the Wilson property. They will learn the public's wishes through the discussion and will answer questions. Consultant Chuck Jackson will serve as facilitator of the forum.

The other properties that have been or will be closed as part of Project Schoolhouse include Addams, Alcott, Bunche, Cherokee, Chouteau, Barnard, Franklin, Fulton Learning Academy, Grimes, Lombard, Roosevelt and Sandburg elementary schools, and Cleveland Middle School.

For additional information about Tulsa Public Schools, please visit the TPS website, www.tulsaschools.org.

(Photo retrieved from the Wilson Middle School website.)

Although I didn't go to school there, the building holds fond memories for me, as the cafeteria was where I participated in my first forum as a candidate for City Council in 1998, hosted by the Renaissance Neighborhood Association. I returned for other neighborhood association and coalition meetings and candidate forums there over the next several years.

As you can see from the photo above, Wilson is an impressive building. While its playgrounds border an arterial (11th Street, historic Route 66) and a neighborhood collector (Delaware Ave), the main entrance is on Columbia Ave, in the heart of Renaissance Neighborhood.

It is my hope that TPS would make preservation and adaptive reuse of the main building a condition of sale, along with an insistence (perhaps in the form of a covenant that runs with the land) that the future use would be compatible with its location in the heart of a single-family residential neighborhood. It would be a wonderful location for a charter school, a great new home for a private school, or a permanent home for some newly planted church. With the passage of the Oklahoma Opportunity Scholarship program, there's an opportunity to fill attractive, historic buildings like Wilson, Barnard, Roosevelt, and Franklin with excellent and affordable private schools that will help draw families back to Midtown, an area that, despite its revival in many regards, has lost population over the last decade as Midtown families have moved to suburban school districts.

While it would be nice to keep the property in one piece, It might be appropriate to allow mixed-use or neighborhood commercial development (think Cherry Street) on the fields that face Delaware. Here again, TPS could insist on design guidelines to ensure neighborhood compatibility.

I hope TPS board members will keep in mind that the neighboring property owners bought with the expectation that this land was a school and would remain so into the distant future. Replacing Wilson Middle School with another big parking lot or warehouse for Bama or TU would add insult to the injury neighbors have suffered with the school's closing.

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1 Comments

T-Town Oil said:

Tulsa and Tulsa County needs a Tulsa Museum of History!

This would make a great museum!

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on July 7, 2011 12:36 AM.

Does Ed Miliband pass the Turing test? was the previous entry in this blog.

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