Oct. 5—Jones Academy Superintendent Patrick Moore says it's all about student safety.
Administrators and personnel from Jones Academy near Hartshorne met with Pittsburg County commissioners Monday to discuss closing public access to the facility from county roads.
Jones Academy officials said they feel the action is needed to enhance security and student safety on the facility's campus.
They attended a public hearing held in the Commissioners' Meeting Room at the Pittsburg County Courthouse, for public comments on the proposed closing of the county's E 147 Road and Jones Academy Road. The E 147 county road connects with Jones Academy Road on both the east and west sides of the campus. Jones Academy's main entrance is off U.S. Highway 270 about four miles northeast of Hartshorne.
During the hearing, County Commission Chairman/District 1 Commissioner Kevin Smith asked if there was anyone present opposed to the proposed road closure.
When no one replied, he asked if anyone supported the closure, getting affirmative replies from Moore, along with Jones Academy Elementary School Principal Robert Ray, Programs Manager Joy Tribbey and Safety Coordinator Cody Golla.
"It's simply just a safety concern," Moore said. "We've got a lot of folks out there." Moore said there are ball fields on both sides of the road and many motorists don't abide by the speed limit signs. Some people who drive through the Jones Academy campus have no business there, he said. Some are taking short cuts and are in a hurry.
District 1 Commissioner Charlie Rogers, whose district the roads are in, said he'd been told some people have driven through the campus in pickups with gun racks, especially during hunting seasons. While there have been no incidents and the motorists have appeared to be driving through the campus to access either another county road or the highway, it's raised security concerns.
Moore said signs are already in place prohibiting through traffic through at Jones Academy, but some drivers are disregarding them.
The proposal calls for the road closure to end where Jones Academy Road intersects with the section line between Sections 21 and 28, Township 5 North, Range 17 East, with the idea of blocking unrestricted access to the campus from the county roads.
County commissioners took no action during Monday's hearing, which was called to hear public comments. Smith said he expects the matter to be placed on the commissioners' next meeting agenda for a vote, with the next regular meeting set for 9 a.m. on Monday, Oct. 10. He indicated the commissioners understood the security concerns regarding students that led to the roads closure request.
"Whatever it takes to keep them safe," said Smith.
Jones Academy is a Native American boarding school founded in 1891 by the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, attended by approximately 200 students annually in the first through twelfth grades. Jones Academy operates a school on-campus for students in the first through sixth grades. Students are part of the Hartshorne School District, where students in the seventh through twelfth grades attend classes.
Following the commissioners' meeting, the News-Capital asked Moore what Jones Academy has planned if the road closure requested is approved.
Referring to the east and west side entrances, Moore said "Most likely we'll be putting up gates."
Even if access from the east and west side entrances to the campus are blocked, the main entrance off U.S. Highway 270 is expected to remain open, at least for now.
"It will remain as it is," said Moore.
Contact James Beaty at email@example.com