as reported by the Bartlesville Examiner-Enterprise
The Board of Education voted to close Oak Park Elementary School on May 5, 2011, after the budget crunch, while more than 100 community members and parents showed up at various meetings to protest the decision.
In 2011, the Bartlesville Public School District’s Board of Education made the decision to close Oak Park Elementary School, a small neighborhood school in northwest Bartlesville, and transfer the students to the larger Woodrow Wilson Elementary School on the opposite side of the city.
The decision was made in the midst of another school funding crisis where an annual savings of over $500,000 was realized by closing the school. The Board of Education voted to close Oak Park Elementary School on May 5, 2011, after the budget crunch, while more than 100 community members and parents showed up at various meetings to protest the decision.
Bartlesville Public School District’s Executive Director of Elementary and Middle Schools Dianne Martinez was serving at the district-level administration at the time. She said it was one of toughest decisions she’s been a part of.
“It was very difficult. I talked to a lot of parents who were heartbroken and sad,” Martinez said. “They did not think their children would be happy at another school. That was gut-wrenching for all of us at (the Education Service Center).”
Community members cited several reasons to not close the school, including having to bus students several miles to Wilson, and concerns that academic performance would suffer. Fast forward five years to 2016, and while the transition was difficult, Wilson Elementary has become one of the top-ranked schools in the Bartlesville district.
Preliminary test results from the Oklahoma State Department of Education indicate for the first time, Wilson Elementary’s 2015-2016 fifth-graders scored the highest in reading and math test scores when compared to the other five elementary schools in the district. Additionally, the preliminary test results indicate Wilson Elementary also scored very high in third and fourth grade as well.
While the test results will not be finalized for another few weeks, Wilson Elementary Principal Tammie Krause said she is happy about the performance.
“These fifth-graders are the first ones to go through our entire school since the closure of Oak Park,” Krause said. “Academic -wise, I think there was an anticipation that the kids would really struggle. However, we have had the exact opposite occur. Every year they came in strong and have grown to the point of where others are taking notice. Our kids are rising up to the expectations and going beyond what everyone thought would happen.”
After the closure of Oak Park Elementary and transitioning the students to Wilson, an emphasis was placed on providing a unique culture for students and teachers, Krause said. The school was the first in the district to implement the Great Expectations model, and that has allowed for higher stability and consistency in a school experience for these students, Krause said.
“The teachers and the staff really embrace this culture, and they understand that children are far more than just a test score,” she said. “The test scores are just a culmination of the success we have had at Wilson. We understand that our job is to educate the child as a whole, and to not only give them the gift of education, but the gift of how to be a good person.”