‘State of the School’: YPS enrollment up nearly 1,000 students since ‘19

New elementary school, college/career center, building additions coming

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Yukon Public Schools’ Superintendent Dr. Jason Simeroth visits with attendees of his “State of the School” presentation: From left, Baron Case, Trinity Baptist Church student pastor; Brian Mills, Trinity Baptist Church senior pastor; Simeroth, and Justin Ellis, Harris Ellis Equipment Co. and Yukon Quarterback Club vice president. The Yukon Chamber of Commerce’s Nov. 10th luncheon was at Pauline’s Southern Kitchen, 1700 Shedeck Parkway. (Photo by Conrad Dudderar)

By Conrad Dudderar
Staff Writer

With enrollment climbing by nearly 1,000 students over the past three years, Yukon school officials are looking to construct a new school and other buildings to accommodate growth.

A proposed land acquisition for a future elementary site in northwest Yukon was among highlights of Superintendent Dr. Jason Simeroth’s Nov. 10th annual “State of the School” address.

Simeroth, in his ninth year leading Yukon Public Schools, was the featured presenter for the Yukon Chamber of Commerce’s monthly membership luncheon at Pauline’s Southern Kitchen, 1700 Shedeck Parkway.

“Yukon is just a phenomenal place and I’m blessed to be here every day,” Simeroth added. “I love my job.”

YPS enrollment increased by some 325 students over the summer, now well exceeding 9,400. In 2019, the district’s population was around 8,500.

Yukon school district boundaries cover 68 square miles of Canadian County, including Yukon, northwest and southwest Oklahoma City, and Banner.

The north part of the district is “just exploding” due to new housing developments, according to Simeroth.

Growth in this area has necessitated a nine-classroom expansion at Surrey Hills Elementary (due to be completed by fall 2023) and plans to buy land for an elementary school near Frisco and Hefner roads.

YPS voters in November 2021 approved a $194 million bond issue package that is funding projects designed to keep up with district growth.

“Money for kids is always good,” Simeroth said.

This Yukon school bond already has provided new playgrounds, monument signs and school furnishings, along with maintenance and transportation upgrades. Other construction projects are on the horizon.

Oklahoma City Public Schools used Yukon as an example in its campaign to pass an $985 million bond issue proposal.

Looking to the near future, Dr. Simeroth shared with the luncheon crowd about a new aviation program taught by an ex-Navy pilot that will feature a flight simulator. A new Air Force ROTC program also is likely.

Yukon’s school chief briefly mentioned student accomplishments, notably the district’s first e-sports tournament champion, academic state champion athletic teams, and pom and cheer squads competing for state titles.

A growing share of the YPS student population – approaching 50% – is eligible for federal free/reduced meal benefits.

“We have so many kids in need,” said Simeroth, his voice cracking. “We want (all) kids to have a future. We want the kids who are underserved … to have a future that they didn’t imagine.”

As such, the Yukon school district began a partnership with Southwestern Oklahoma State University to allow any YPS student to earn an associate degree – before they leave the high school campus.

“We see so many that have such promise – but don’t know that they could have this next step,” Simeroth noted. “We want to provide this next step.”

Yukon Public Schools’ Superintendent Dr. Jason Simeroth discusses the district’s growth during his “State of the School” talk at the Nov. 10th Yukon Chamber of Commerce membership luncheon. The monthly luncheon was hosted by Pauline’s Southern Kitchen, 1700 Shedeck Parkway. (Photo by Conrad Dudderar)
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NEW COLLEGE/CAREER CENTER

Construction is now due to begin next fall on a new college and career center, along with an auditorium and other building additions at Yukon High School, 1777 S Yukon Parkway.

YPS has partnered with SWOSU to build a “satellite campus” on the west side of the high school.

School patrons and local business will be invited to “sponsor” eligible students by paying SWOSU’s tuition cost for an associate degree. Other college scholarships will be available to deserving students.

The YHS construction project has been delayed “six to eight months” because building plans must be redesigned due to a state requirement to install storm shelters, according to Simeroth.

The YPS chief estimated that increased interest rates have cost the district $5-$10 million in “spending ability,” but he hopes those rates will lower by the time construction begins.

The new YHS fine arts facility will allow the district to offer an orchestra program for students in middle and high school.

There also have been discussions about installing a new road into the YHS campus to help with traffic congestion.

Meanwhile, Dr. Simeroth discussed the need for YPS to recruit and hire more certified teachers – specifically for science, math and special education – because of the student population growth.

He challenged the luncheon audience to send e-mails to teachers to “say thank you” for the job they perform for Yukon’s youth.

Most YPS students have returned to in-person classroom instruction, with many having to “catch up” after virtual learning during the pandemic.

“Our teachers are really ‘stepping it up’,” Simeroth said.

“We have such a support group in our classes for kids – emotionally, spiritually, physically, academically.”

YPS is tied for first in the Oklahoma City metro for having the highest starting teacher salaries.

As for the district’s administrative personnel, Simeroth said he has “the best team that you could possibly imagine.”

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