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Star Spencer High School is one of several schools in the Oklahoma City district dealing with declining enrollment.

Empty classrooms prompt Oklahoma City district to address long-range facility planning

The district spends about $2.4 million a year to heat and cool nearly 1,000 vacant or underutilized classrooms.

The Oklahoma City (Okla.) school board is looking at how to address excess classroom capacity on many of its campuses.

The Oklahoman reports that about 39 percent of elementary school seats are empty, and 26 percent of middle and high school seats are empty, including those in portable classrooms.

The district says it spends about $2.4 million annually to heat and cool nearly 1,000 vacant or underutilized classrooms.

Board members received a demographic study and facilities planning update at a recent meeting, but have not taken any action in connection with capacity issues. Several say that long-range planning discussions are long overdue.

"The days of kids being in a half-empty school building with large class sizes and emergency certified teachers, minimal counseling, no art and no music need to come to an end," board member Rebecca Budd says. "We're not doing the best we can for children."

In south Oklahoma City, where school crowding is a problem, a new middle school or high school could be built in the coming years.

At the other end of the spectrum, Chief of Staff Rebecca Kaye says, are Rogers Middle School and Star Spencer High School in Spencer. Those schools are projected to decline in enrollment over the next 10 years, with Star Spencer losing more than 200 students and Rogers losing more than 100. Both schools already have small enrollments.

Projected enrollment for the entire school district for the 2018-19 school year is 38,762.

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