Low Enrollment Threatens Atoka Co. School - KTEN.com - No One Gets You Closer

Low Enrollment Threatens Atoka Co. School

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ATOKA COUNTY, OK -- People in one small Texoma town are worried part of their identity may be slipping away, as low enrollment at the grade school may mean it needs to dramatically scale back its operations.

Students in the Farris community currently go to other Atoka County schools for high school, but this new plan would send them to Antlers and at a much younger age.

Farris has a gas station and a small restaurant, but no stoplight or post office, and some fear the plan to close down most of the school will wipe it off the map.

"If this school leaves, the community will fall apart and we don't want the community to fall apart," says resident Robert Ansley. 

The school board approved an annexation plan in which most students would travel 15 miles to the nearest large school in Antlers.

"Our tax dollars, they're going to go to Pushmataha County, a lot of them if we send our kids to Push County, and there's more options of high schools in Atoka County," says resident Toni Craven.

The Farris school currently has about 55 students in pre-K through eighth grade. Under the annexation plan, the school would remain open only for the pre-K through first grade, and then students would go to Antlers.

"I don't want the school to go, but if we're going to have to go because of our lack of students, then I really think it's okay," says resident Nadine Butler.

Butler says her two young grandkids go to Antlers, while Ansley sends his kids to Lane. "My wife works over at Lane, and we feel like they'll get a better education over there," Ansley says.

The enrollment in Farris has fluctuated, but is down from about 100 students at the start of the year two years ago. Now residents are left wondering what their community would be like with a much smaller school.

"They still have Christmas programs, they have graduation programs, they have fall festival programs here, and it seems like the community is more one-on-one and everyone knows everyone," says resident Judy Bell.

"When you lose your school, you lose your identity, and people don't like to move to an area that doesn't have a school," says Butler.

State education superintendent Janet Barresi was set to come to the Kiamichi Technology Center in Atoka to meet with concerned parents on Tuesday night. The state Education Department became involved in the school last year with a program called C3 to help six underperforming schools across Oklahoma.

The plan still needs to be approved by Antlers schools and Farris voters. A few years ago, voters rejected a proposal to merge with Lane.