Stillwater News Press

June 25, 2013

School Board reviews ways to replace Westwood Elementary

By Chase Rheam
Stillwater NewsPress

STILLWATER, Okla. — School officials and neighborhood residents focused on the future of Westwood Elementary School Monday night.

The school is too small to adequately house 500 to 600 students. The site is landlocked. Officials discussed moving the school or purchasing nearby land and building a multi-story structure during the meeting at the school.

Stillwater is constructing two elementary schools to replace Will Rogers and Highland Park schools. Westwood is the third elementary school in need of an update.

Assistant Superintendent Jim Ryan started the meeting with a history lesson. Traditionally, elementary schools are placed in the middle of neighborhoods to allow students to walk or bike to school.

Will Rogers, Highland Park and Westwood were designed in this manner, Ryan said.

“The expected populations in these schools were only expected to be 250 to 350 kids,” he said.

In the last 60 years, the schools have evolved with the addition of more classes, a gymnasium and other details, he said.

“All schools have since been enlarged to house anywhere between 500 to 600 (students),” he said.

Student enrollment continues to grow serving as a catalyst for elementary school upgrades, he said.

“We’ve outgrown our buildings and anyone who works in an elementary school will know that for the last two or three years, it’s been pretty tight,” he said.

Westwood Elementary is landlocked on a busy four-lane street. The area surrounding the school copes with traffic issues and a lack of green space, he said.

Westwood can go in many directions, Ryan said.

“It can stay where it is, maybe, by going up multi-story and acquiring some adjacent property,” he said. “But we still have to figure out parking and traffic.”

Ryan suggested the school could move further west on State Highway 51 or even north in a partnership with Oklahoma State University.

“It’s not unknown to have lab schools at universities where the university collaborates with the local school district not so much in the operation of the school, but perhaps in the land for the school and OSU would have some sort of arrangement for their research department in the College of (Education),” Ryan said.

Bob Schaefer of Selser Schaefer Architects looked at various options for Westwood. Schaefer is one of the architects who drew plans for Highland Park and Will Rogers.

He discussed a three-story design with land acquistion at the existing site, a two-story design that would displace students for a school year and two summers and a new location — eight to 10 acres at the corner of South Sangre Road and Sangre Bend.

Other issues included storm shelters and safe rooms and reworking attendance zones.

Superintendent Ann Caine said she would like to hear the thoughts and comments of Westwood residents.