Controversial Broken Arrow school rezoning tabled for another month
(BROKEN ARROW, Okla.) A proposed boundary change was tabled by the Broken Arrow Public Schools (BAPS) Board of Education Monday after community members pushed for a more long-term solution.
Amber Hamilton, a resident of the Washington Lanes neighborhood, said she found out about the rezoning from an email sent out to the parents of 81 students on February 22.
The email said the children in the Washington Lanes neighborhood would be moved from Rosewood to Vandever Elementary, and they could learn more during a parent forum on February 27.
“We were never made aware that the decision was not finalized, nor that we could attend this meeting to have our voices heard,” Hamilton said.
BAPS Director of Enrollment Bridget Powell said the decision was made due to Rosewood, currently at 638 students, being thirty students away from being over capacity.
“Rosewood shares a boundary with Vandever Elementary,” Powell said. “Residing within its boundaries, Vandever currently has an enrollment of 395 students with room to accommodate for the growth that Rosewood is experiencing. This boundary change will ensure an equitable educational experience for all children.”
Hamilton said the children of Washington Lanes had just been rezoned for the 2020 school year.
On top of that, the parents were told they could expect additional rezoning in the next 2 to 3 years.
Hamilton asked that the children not be moved from Rosewood, that the properties under development be zoned elsewhere, that the Washington Lanes children be exempt from further rezoning, and that policies be put in place to limit rezoning.
“When we make that financial decision, that investment on where our children should go, we shouldn’t have to look over our shoulder and wonder, ‘Is there a rezone coming?’ ” Washington Lane resident Carl McKittrick said. “Are we going to end up in a school that we decided not to put our kids in because of consistent rezoning. We shouldn’t have that fear. No family should.”
McKittrick said stability is important.
“My youngest has one friend in our neighborhood,” McKittrick said. “The rest of his friends he made at school. Myself and my wife have invested time in getting to know the parents of those kids, right? So you’re asking us to start that process over again. And then potentially again.”
Chief Technology Officer Ashley Bowser said the rapid growth of development within the Rosewood boundary hasn’t left them with much of a choice, with the Washington Lane neighborhood making the most sense to move now.
“There are eleven current developments in the Rosewood boundaries currently,” Bowser said. “And so of those eleven current developments, if you look at development all over Broken Arrow, that means that 20 percent of the new homes are being built in the Rosewood boundaries today.”
Bowser said over the last year Rosewood has increased by 100 students, and having a several pockets of different school zones within the Rosewood school boundary isn’t logistically feasible.
“If you think about it, it’s a three-year-old school,” Bowser said. “Which means that every family that’s in it was moved there three years ago. So, any family we move is in the same boat. It doesn’t matter if we chose a different neighborhood or a different part of that boundary.”
BAPS compromised during the rezoning process to allow current Washington Lanes fourth graders attending Rosewood to complete the fourth and fifth grade there, as well as their siblings. Current third graders who were moved during the last boundary change would also have been permitted to remain at Rosewood through their fifth year.
In the end, it was not enough to get the rezoning approved. Board of Education Vice President Jerry Denton made a motion to approve the redistricting but it was not seconded.
Instead, John Cockrell asked when they were going to have to go through this again.
“It’s insane how much growth is going on out there,” Cockrell said. “And I hate to just make a decision based off of a small group when we’re going to be in here doing this again in the short term.”
The board asked school administrators to develop a longer-term plan for the next board meeting in April. With 50% of the school district still undeveloped, Bowser said planning school zones long term is like hitting a moving target.
“It’s a testament to how great our schools are,” Bowser said. “Everybody loves the school that they’re in. They’re passionate about their school and that’s a testament to the work that our teachers and building principals do each and every day to make those environments warm and welcoming for those families.”
School officials said 734 new homes are currently planned or under construction within the Rosewood boundary.
The ‘red hallway’
Hamilton also inquired about an additional pod at Rosewood nicknamed the “Red Hallway” that was never completed due to the project being over budget.
“It seems incredibly unfair to make our children pay for the improper planning of budgeters and builders,” Hamilton said.
But BAPS and the BOE both pointed to the economy.
“I was on the construction subcommittee when that happened,” Broken Arrow Board of Education President Steve Allen said. “The previous person in charge when that was being designed, it went over budget. And they didn’t have enough money as growing costs were increasing at that time, to complete that one pod.”
Bowser agreed, saying the pod was an alternate that they hoped to build -- but with rising costs in 2019 it was not able to happen.
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