Fields & Futures Partners With OKCPS To Install New Athletic Fields
OKLAHOMA CITY - The Oklahoma City Public School District's Pathway to Greatness plan means many schools in the district are closing, but it also means many schools are being transformed and will now serve kids in different grades, starting next year.
District officials are using the mantra 'first day ready' to underscore their commitment to making all the needed changes to these schools by August -- changes not only to classrooms and personnel, but also to athletic fields.
For the past seven years, the nonprofit Fields and Futures has been working to enrich the lives of OKCPS students by installing brand new athletic fields at all of the district's middle and high schools. As of the end of 2018, the organization was more than halfway toward achieving that goal, having completed 22 football, baseball and softball fields in seven years.
The Pathway to Greatness plan, which was formally approved the Oklahoma City School Board this week, moved the goalpost.
"Well, we did kinda feel like we were coming in for our bell lap," said Fields & Futures Co-Founder Tim McLaughlin, "and they're about to ring the bell and they said, 'Stop, why don't run about three more laps.'"
Under Pathway to Greatness, six elementary schools are being converted to middle schools, meaning they'll have middle school athletics and teams that will need at least a field to practice on by the start of school in August.
"We're gonna try to pull it off -- we're gonna need some cooperation from mother nature," McLaughlin said, "but we'll make a significant difference, no doubt about that."
McLaughlin says the work will be done in phases. Phase one will be putting in basic rectangular fields at each of the converted middle schools by August.
In an interview at Greystone Elementary school, which will be converted into John Marshall Middle School. OKCPS Athletics Director Keith Sinor explained how it would work.
"Right here we have a huge space, so we'll put -- first day ready -- we'll put, basically, a football sized field here with irrigation, new sod, those types of things," Sinor said, "where our football team, soccer team could practice."
Middle school athletes at these schools will, at first, play their games at the high schools they feed into. Eventually, Fields & Futures will come back, in phase two, and create spaces where the students will not only be able to practice, but also play.
"Everywhere where we have space," said Sinor, "we will put a baseball field, a softball field and a football field for our kids to practice and to play on."
Examples of what these schools could look like are already out there. Roosevelt Middle school, for example, is one of the schools where Fields & Futures has already performed its magic and made it much more appealing for students to get involved in athletics and be on a team.
"The partnership with Fields & Futures has just radically transformed the athletics in our district," Sinor stated.
The school district will make its own investment in athletics -- more than $2 million worth -- retro-fitting gymnasiums, putting up scoreboards, and more -- but it is counting on McLaughlin and his team to bring the athletic fields up to par.
"Absolutely thrilled," said McLaughlin, about this opportunity to add six new schools to their 'to-do' list.
"We're talking a minimum of 13 new teams per school," said McLaughlin, "so times six, it'll eventually be around 100 teams, which means 1,500 new kids part of a team, which means 150 new coaches helping give them guidance and keeping them on the right paths."
McLaughlin says they have tracked the impact of the new fields they've already installed, and it's convinced him that it makes a real difference.
"Six to seven days more in school, if you're on a team," McLaughlin said, "getting 25 percent higher GPA's, if you're on a team, and your graduation rates are 99 percent versus an 81 percent, so we were very thrilled about the opportunity to add more kids to teams under the tutelage of coaches."