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  1. #1

    Far North John Rex Middle School

    John Rex School Announces Middle School Expansion
    $1.7 million Inasmuch Foundation grants support move into Myriad Botanical Gardens



    OKLAHOMA CITY (Nov. 16, 2017) – The John Rex Charter Elementary School (JRCES) board of directors voted unanimously today to expand the school’s innovative educational model into the middle school grades.

    A $1 million grant from Inasmuch Foundation will help fund the addition of the middle-school grades, which will begin in the fall of 2018 at Myriad Botanical Gardens. Inasmuch Foundation is also committing a capital improvement grant up to $700,000 for enhancements to the garden’s educational spaces.

    “Families of current JRCES students have repeatedly asked the school to create a path for their children from pre-K all the way through high school,” said JRCES Head of School Joe Pierce. “We are thrilled to expand our launch pad of learning and discovery in the gardens.”

    Current fifth-grade students will automatically be offered a seat in sixth grade for the 2018-19 school year. The existing John Rex attendance boundary zone and four-tiered priority enrollment system will extend to the middle school. The policy allows students living near the school to be automatically admitted, like other neighborhood schools.

    Sixth grade will have approximately 80 seats. The availability of open seats for new students will depend on existing students’ intent to re-enroll. The board anticipates adding a seventh grade at Myriad Gardens in 2019, with plans for eighth grade under review.

    JRCES Board Chairman Kirk Humphreys said the expansion fulfills a long-time dream.

    “Our school’s concept has always been about providing an exemplary learning environment for an economically and racially diverse group of students,” he said. “Expanding the unique public-private partnership that fuels our mission will provide a huge boost for our community.”

    Inasmuch Foundation’s grant to JRCES will be paid out over four years and provides funds to hire staff, including an assistant head of school who will oversee the day-to-day operations of the middle school. The grant will also cover expenses related to the launch of the middle school, including the student curriculum and professional development for teachers.

    Inasmuch Foundation President and CEO Bob Ross said the grant exemplifies the foundation’s support of high-quality education opportunities, as well as community enhancement projects.

    “A major catalyst for John Rex Elementary’s early success was its partnership with the downtown community” Ross said. “On any given day you can see Rex Rockets walking to the downtown library, Oklahoma City Museum of Art or Film Row. The partnership with Myriad Gardens will further John Rex’s roots in the community and continue a truly unique urban education.”

    The $700,000 grant from Inasmuch Foundation to Myriad Gardens will help transform current event space into flexible classroom space. The capital improvements will also address security concerns associated with locating a middle school in a public park.
    Myriad Botanical Gardens Executive Director Maureen Heffernan said its foundation is delighted to open up space at the Crystal Bridge to help John Rex students continue their downtown schooling.

    “Going to school at a botanical garden will provide students with uniquely beautiful and enriching indoor and outdoor learning spaces,” she said. “We look forward to a fruitful partnership with John Rex School and the wonderful energy the children will bring to the gardens.”

    Middle school classes will use the lower-level classroom and event spaces located below the Crystal Bridge.

    Devon Chairman Emeritus Larry Nichols praised the partnership.

    “I’ve always seen the Myriad Botanical Gardens as one of the keys to creating a vibrant downtown in Oklahoma City, which benefits the entire community,” he said. “Bringing a school into the gardens is the perfect symbol of growth and renewal in Oklahoma City.”
    Jim Tolbert, executive board of directors chairman emeritus for the Myriad Botanical Gardens Foundation, agreed.

    “The Myriad Botanical Gardens are already one of Oklahoma City’s most beloved public spaces,” Tolbert said. “Bringing middle school students into the gardens for school will create positive, lifelong connections between our facility and the students who will one day lead our community.”

    Water Plaza Room

    Terrace Room

  2. #2

    Default Re: John Rex Middle School

    In an email to me, MBG Executive Director Maureen Hefernan had these additional comments:

    "We are very happy to use our space to accommodate John Rex so the students can continue their downtown education.

    In the first year, next August 2018, we will have approximately 65 6th graders; in August 2019 we would have both 6th and 7th graders and then 6, 7 and 8th grades in 2020.

    The lower level spaces will work well for both organizations thanks to a grant from the Inasmuch Foundation that will enable the Myriad Gardens Foundation to make some building upgrades and changes to create more classroom space on our upper level and modify some lower level spaces to work better for classroom, serving lunch and for security. We are giving up rental income from weddings and other events from this space, but our lease with John Rex will help offset that loss. We believe that helping John Rex and its students is a higher purpose of our space for the good of the community for the next several years.

    The school will lease our lower level rooms, kitchen and restroom and hallway spaces in the Crystal Bridge complex. These are the rooms that open right out to our Water Stage to give you a perspective on the location. The rooms have lovely views looking north out to the lake and gardens. Parents or caretakers can pick up and drop off children in our turnaround drive off of Reno Ave.

    We have agreed that the school can operate here at least 3 years upon which time we can both consider if we’d like to continue leasing space.

    The school can also use our various outdoor venues if they wish to conduct classes outside in nice weather – our children’s garden, pavilion, use the Great Lawn for play, study plants in the conservatory etc.


    I’m especially looking forward to working with Joe Pierce and John Rex teachers, if they would find it helpful, to offer the students unique learning lessons using our Gardens as one big outdoor classroom to enrich their curriculum. For example, we could have students help: plant bulbs in the fall so they can study and watch in amazement as they bloom into daffodils and tulips in the spring; sow seeds in our spring edible garden beds to harvest fresh vegetables and herbs to take home; count monarch butterflies in our prairie garden; pick bananas and oranges in the Crystal Bridge and so much more. Wouldn’t it be great if all the kids could learn to identify and name native Oklahoma prairie flowers in our prairie garden and learn the names of trees on our grounds as a result of being here for a school year?

    Our grounds will become one big Kinder -garden!"

  3. #3

    Default Re: John Rex Middle School

    Such a great, creative solution to get the middle school up and running downtown.

  4. #4

    Default Re: John Rex Middle School

    Excited to be a part of if

  5. #5

    Default Re: John Rex Middle School

    This is pretty cool. So many functions to Myriad Gardens. Going to be nice for middle school students to see the beautiful gardens every day on their way to school!

  6. #6

    Default Re: John Rex Middle School

    Why can't they attend an existing middle school?

  7. #7

    Default Re: John Rex Middle School

    Took this tonight... Crystal bridge lit up in John Rex colors to celebrate the partnership.


  8. #8

    Default Re: John Rex Middle School

    Good to know that Larry Nichols and Devon care about at least one school one school in Oklahoma. /s

  9. #9

    Default Re: John Rex Middle School

    I wonder if Stage Center could have been re-purposed for classrooms.

  10. #10

    Default Re: John Rex Middle School

    I've always wondered what the deal was with those two rooms. They always seemed abandoned.

  11. #11

    Default Re: John Rex Middle School

    Quote Originally Posted by jccouger View Post
    I wonder if Stage Center could have been re-purposed for classrooms.
    That would've been hella expensive

  12. #12
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    Default Re: John Rex Middle School

    Quote Originally Posted by SouthSide View Post
    Why can't they attend an existing middle school?
    The middle school for this area is Taft at 23/May. My daughter went there as Rex was not available to us. Pretty rough place comparatively. At the time anyway.

  13. #13

    Default Re: John Rex Middle School

    Quote Originally Posted by DoctorTaco View Post
    I've always wondered what the deal was with those two rooms. They always seemed abandoned.
    We had our HS reunion in one of the rooms, I've been to the MBG a lot and had really never paid attention to them. Will be a cool setting for the school.

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    Default Re: John Rex Middle School

    I'd like to know if this is the forever plan or if it's until RMS can build it's own facility. Maybe I missed that in the various articles?

  15. #15

    Default Re: John Rex Middle School

    Quote Originally Posted by shawnw View Post
    I'd like to know if this is the forever plan or if it's until RMS can build it's own facility. Maybe I missed that in the various articles?
    Not the forever plan, just for the next 3 years while they work on a permanent location that will likely include a high school as well.

  16. #16

    Default Re: John Rex Middle School

    Quote Originally Posted by Pete View Post
    Not the forever plan, just for the next 3 years while they work on a permanent location that will likely include a high school as well.
    This makes me so happy

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    Default Re: John Rex Middle School

    If there had been some forward thinking we could have bought central HS back and made it a mid-high but I'm not complaining about the actual outcome per se.

  18. #18

    Default Re: John Rex Middle School

    Others have commented that for OKC PS to change it would require parents of means who live in the area to have their children attend OKC PS. It appears they are only willing to do so if they have new and mostly separate schools. I fear a two tier school system is being created.

  19. Default Re: John Rex Middle School

    Quote Originally Posted by SouthSide View Post
    Others have commented that for OKC PS to change it would require parents of means who live in the area to have their children attend OKC PS. It appears they are only willing to do so if they have new and mostly separate schools. I fear a two tier school system is being created.
    A graduate of Southeast HS in 2010, and I feel the same way in a sense. I can't put my finger on it. Classen SAS, Southeast, and other successful schools in the city system are often ignored it seems to me. I've often wondered if the experience at these Magnet schools are ever applied at lower performing schools. On the same note, I'd love for some of the success of John Rex Elementary be used in a way that might help lead other schools on a better path.

    I suspect this is the best course to an OKCPS turnaround; we have some standout public, magnet, and charter schools (in light of administrative failures). How can we utilize these success stories and apply them to other schools across the district?

    Off topic a bit, I know.

  20. #20

    Default Re: John Rex Middle School

    Quote Originally Posted by SouthSide View Post
    Why can't they attend an existing middle school?
    Good question.

    Quote Originally Posted by dankrutka View Post
    Good to know that Larry Nichols and Devon care about at least one school one school in Oklahoma. /s
    This!

  21. #21

    Default Re: John Rex Middle School

    Quote Originally Posted by shawnw View Post
    The middle school for this area is Taft at 23/May. My daughter went there as Rex was not available to us. Pretty rough place comparatively. At the time anyway.
    What do you mean by this? I'm seriously asking, as that's the middle school we are in.

  22. #22

    Default Re: John Rex Middle School

    Quote Originally Posted by AP View Post
    What do you mean by this? I'm seriously asking, as that's the middle school we are in.
    My niece went there 2 years ago and she said that there was a group of girls that would punch you in the hallway if they found out it was your birthday. I didn't believe her but she swore it was true. This is a teenage girl so take it with a grain of salt.

  23. #23

    Default Re: John Rex Middle School

    Quote Originally Posted by HHE View Post
    My niece went there 2 years ago and she said that there was a group of girls that would punch you in the hallway if they found out it was your birthday. I didn't believe her but she swore it was true. This is a teenage girl so take it with a grain of salt.
    I'm not saying to ignore kids, but just follow up on their claims. Having been in education a while, kids tend to exagerate, especially when it makes a better story.

    If you want to learn about a school, I highly recommend visiting it yourself and asking someone from the school to show you around. I've said it a lot before here, but there's a lot of assumptions about which schools are "good" and "bad" on SES, race, or the state grades. Do some research yourself if you're curious about a school.

  24. #24

    Default Re: John Rex Middle School

    ^That's exactly why I'm asking. I have a hard time understanding how a middle school can be rough.

  25. #25
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    Default Re: John Rex Middle School

    Quote Originally Posted by AP View Post
    What do you mean by this? I'm seriously asking, as that's the middle school we are in.
    My daughter was severely bullied to the extent that she was self-mutilating and at one point we took her to the ER due to concerns about suicide. As just one example the kids bullying her were made to apologize in writing, but they slipped in a note with the apology saying "we're not really sorry". We had to put her in therapy and remove her from the school for the last quarter of 7th grade (after the psychiatrist recommended, in writing to the district, immediate removal from the environment). After a lengthy process, the district granted us accommodations of sending a math and a science teacher to our home to keep her caught up with core subjects. For eighth grade we continued the district sponsored partial home school and she attended only certain classes at the school, and as part of that accommodation she was permitted to leave classes early so that she couldn't be harassed by the bullies between classes. She had a much better time in high school at NW Classen.

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