Sand Springs School District considers building new Ninth Grade Center

One of the oldest buildings in Sand Springs, Central Ninth Grade center could be replaced in the coming years.

One of the oldest buildings in Sand Springs, Central Ninth Grade center could be replaced in the coming years.

The Sand Springs Board of Education held a regular monthly meeting Monday evening at the Charles Page High School Fine Arts Building. The board discussed potential early-out days in the coming school year, an upcoming bond election, and the possibility of moving freshmen to the high school campus.

Superintendent Sherry Durkee is hoping to add several short school days to the upcoming school year to allow for professional development sessions for the staff and teachers. According to Durkee, several districts already have days with late starts or early outs to allow time for teachers to focus on development.

Sand Springs is leaning towards letting students out early as opposed to starting school late because many parents already drop their children off earlier than schools are supposed to open. 

Board member Bo Naugle expressed concern that shorter school days could cause many teachers to have "blow-off" days without real instruction or homework. "Every time we have a short school week, it's a free week. My kids come home and tell me we watched a movie, or we didn't do anything." He also raised the issue of economic hardship in Sand Springs and the difficulty it could put on parents who have to leave work early or pay for additional after-school childcare. 

Board President Rusty Gunn wants to see consistency with the early-out days, such as the first Friday of every month. 

Durkee also discussed the possibility of building a new freshman center on the grounds of the High School. Currently freshmen attend Central Ninth Grade Center in downtown. The building was previously the home of Sand Springs High School prior to the construction of CPHS in 1959. 

If approved, the new facilities would likely be built in phases, says Durkee. "We can't bond out $56 million like some of our neighbors." 

Naugle was reluctant to the idea, saying "we have them separate for a reason." Durkee responded by pointing out that the Sixth Grade Center and Clyde Boyd Middle School buildings are adjacent but have little mixing of students. Additionally, many athletic and fine arts programs combine ninth grade students with upperclassmen, so lots of time is spent busing kids back and forth between the two campuses. 

According to Durkee, the Ninth Grade Center currently needs at least a $7 million remodel to bring it up to code, and further inspections have yet to be completed. The district is tentatively planning on a bond election late next year. 

In other news, the district is almost to $80,000 in fundraising efforts for Project Lead The Way. Durkee hopes to add BioMed 2 and Engineering 2 to Charles Page, as well as a Computer Science program at CNGC. 

The Sand Springs Education Foundation delivered $70,000 in grants to teachers and schools shortly before Thanksgiving. "I had the pleasure of having Montie Box in my car," said Durkee. "He is amazing. He's passionate about children, he was in tears at one point. We need to name something after him, he's just really amazing."

High School History and Leadership teacher Frank Cooper was recently the subject of a Folgers Coffee "Share A Cup" commercial produced by Verge Videos where he was surprised by former students he has impacted over his 25 years of teaching. The video has been viewed more than 25,000 times and led to a Siloam Springs teacher contacting Cooper. The teacher, who is already trained in Project Lead The Way curriculum, reached out to Cooper after hearing about the positive things happening in Sand Springs. She recently accepted an offer from school administrators. 

The board also approved a one-time $350 stipend for all Sand Springs teachers at a cost of approximately $250,000 to the district.