The John Rex Charter Elementary School (JRCES) board of directors voted unanimously on Nov. 16 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.”
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.”