Officials recommend closing Steed and Highland Park elementary schools
By Jeff Harrison
Midwest City Beacon
The Mid-Del School District is considering permanently closing two elementary schools.
Superintendent Rick Cobb is recommending the district close Steed Elementary and Highland Park Elementary at the end of the current school year due to declining enrollment and building maintenance costs.
According to the proposal, students who currently attend Steed would attend Soldier Creek Elementary or Midwest City Elementary, while those at Highland Park would attend Townsend, Epperly Heights and Parkview elementary schools.
District officials have been considering school closures for some time. A performance review recommended closing up to four elementary schools. The district later commissioned a demographic study that provided detailed information about enrollment patterns and housing projections.
The school performance review study identified Steed, Highland Park, Parkview, Ridgecrest, Cleveland Bailey and Country Estates as candidates for closure.
The list of six schools was narrowed to two – Highland Park and Steed. They are two of the smallest schools in the district with about 365 students at Steed and 358 at Highland Park.
“We did not think closing four schools was a good idea, so we focused on closing one on the Midwest City side and one on the Del City side,” Cobb said.
Steed Elementary, 2118 Flannery Dr., was selected due to its proximity to two newer school buildings and the main runway at Tinker Air Force Base, and property ownership. The school opened in 1955.
Cobb said the enrollment area for Steed can easily be shifted to Soldier Creek and Midwest City elementary schools. The two schools, which opened in 2014, have capacity for additional students.
Cobb said students from Steed go on to Midwest City and Carl Albert middle schools, so the change would not disrupt their feeder path.
“All of the kids would have fit in Soldier Creek and Midwest City Elementary the day they opened in 2014,” Cobb said. “And it’s easy to move students from a 1955 classroom to a 2014 classroom.”
The City of Midwest City owns the Steed property, which is adjacent to Joe B. Barnes Regional Park. City officials confirmed that the property would revert to the city if the school is closed, but said they do not have any future plans for it.
Cobb said the school is also located near the main runway at Tinker Air Force Base, which creates routine noise disruptions during classes.
Highland Park Elementary, 5301 S. Dimple Dr., was selected due to its location near other schools as well as the condition of the building. The school opened in 1974. Cobb said the decision was not as easy since students will be divided between three schools.
“Highland Park a newer building than some of the others but it has more deferred maintenance that has gone on too long,” Cobb said. “One goal during every bond talk we’ve had is to put as many students into our most modern classrooms as possible. Epperly Heights and Parkview cover that. And we want to make Townsend part of that equation too.”
The district estimates it will save about $1.4 million annually by closing two schools. Cobb said they would likely reduce the number of teaching and staff positions but stressed that no employees would lose their jobs due to school closures. Cobb said the district will use those savings towards teacher and employee raises as well as maintenance of other school buildings.
Fewer schools would also allow the district’s bond funds to go further. Cobb said they plan to make major improvements to the other schools that were identified as part of the closure in the next bond issue. The district plans to pursue another bond issue in fall 2023 or spring 2024.
The district has been on a path of consolidation and realignment for the past decade. In 2014, the district opened the new Soldier Creek Elementary and Midwest City Elementary, while closing the old Soldier Creek, Sooner Rose, Traub and East Side schools.
In 2020, the district consolidated its middle schools from five to three. Del Crest was closed and combined with Kerr and renamed Del City Middle School. Jarman was also shuttered and combined with Monroney and renamed Midwest City Middle School. Classroom additions were built at both middle schools.
The district will host two community meetings about the school closures. They are scheduled for Steed Elementary on Dec. 2 and Highland Park on Dec. 6. Both meetings begin at 6 p.m.
The school board will consider the proposal at the meeting on Dec. 13.
If the board approves the recommendation, the district would need to redraw boundary lines for those schools.