Four new charter schools applying to open in OKC

Oklahoma City Public Schools is considering the applications

By: - November 7, 2023 5:29 am

The Oklahoma City Board of Education meets at the Clara Luper Center for Educational Services on Monday. The school board reviewed charter applications from four potential new schools, an unusually high number to apply at one time. (Photo by Nuria Martinez-Keel/ Oklahoma Voice)

OKLAHOMA CITY — Four potential charter schools have applied to open in Oklahoma City, with three seeking to expand educational options in majority-Black neighborhoods.

It marks the first time in four years that Oklahoma City Public Schools has received any charter applications. The district’s school board reviewed the applications for the first time on Monday.

District staff and board members expressed doubts about the four schools’ viability, particularly because none of the applicants reported they had secured a location or a source of start-up funding.

“You could have the best plan in the world and the best people lined up to do it, but if you don’t have the money and the facility to do it, that’s all for naught,” board member Mark Mann said.

No representatives of the proposed schools attended the meeting.

The district received submissions on Sept. 1 from all four schools, an unusually high number of applicants at one time.

Nation’s first religious charter school receives green light to open in Oklahoma next year

Each school pledged it would not adopt any religious belief, according to the applications.

Charter schools are public, state-funded schools that are free for every student enrolled. A school district, a college or the state must agree to authorize the charter school before it can open.

The Oklahoma City school board has until Dec. 1 to decide whether to authorize any of the four schools. Should the board reject them, the schools’ organizers would have 30 days to resubmit their applications.

After a second rejection, the charters could apply with the Oklahoma State Board of Education or seek out another potential authorizer.

Two of the schools would implement the Montessori method of self-guided, hands-on learning. 

The Oklahoma Montessori Initiative would primarily enroll students from the northwest side of the city with a large target area spanning from Northwest 63rd Street to Northwest 122nd Street and Lake Hefner Parkway to Broadway Extension, according to its application.

The application did not specify a date to open.

With a goal of opening in July 2025, P3 Urban Montessori would educate children ages 3-5 in northeast Oklahoma City particularly from the 73111 ZIP code. This area would overlap with Millwood Public Schools.

The school’s application suggests it would build a 5,000-square-foot “barndominium” to serve up to 80 early elementary students. The application states the facility would be a flexible, multipurpose space but doesn’t identify a location for it.

Two other charter schools also aim to serve students in the predominantly Black area of northeast Oklahoma City: Rise STEAM Academy and Willard C. Pitts Academy.

Rise STEAM Academy identified four potential locations and could partner with Greater Mt. Carmel Baptist Church and the Garden Oaks Community Center to find a home facility. The school’s application shows it wouldn’t open any earlier than 2025.

A former principal with Santa Fe South Charter Schools is leading the Rise STEAM Academy application. The school’s method would emphasize collaboration, critical thinking, creativity and communication.

“This one would be a cool concept, I think, if we needed another elementary school (in the area),” said Jason Mack, the Oklahoma City district’s charter schools coordinator. “We’re doing a really good job of investing in our east side, and I wouldn’t want to take away from what we’re doing in order to put our kids in a position of being at a start-up.”

Willard C. Pitts Academy, aiming to open in fall 2025, would serve students in fifth through eighth grades. It would primarily enroll from the northeast Oklahoma City ZIP codes of 73111, 73105 and 73117, though students from other areas also could apply.

The school suggested opening at the former Polk Elementary building at 3806 N Prospect. 

The building’s owners knew nothing about the charter school when Oklahoma City district staff contacted them, Mack said. The nonprofit RestoreOKC owns the northern part of the property and Boys & Girls Clubs of Oklahoma County owns the southern end.

The middle school would offer a hybrid of in-person and virtual learning. Local organizations would be heavily involved in the school’s community, according to its application.

Oklahoma City is already home to 24 individual charter schools. The Oklahoma City school district authorizes five of them. Most charter schools in the state operate in Oklahoma City and Tulsa, though some are located in rural areas.



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Nuria Martinez-Keel
Nuria Martinez-Keel

Nuria Martinez-Keel covers education for Oklahoma Voice. She worked in newspapers for six years, more than four of which she spent at The Oklahoman covering education and courts. Nuria is an Oklahoma State University graduate.