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Riley Elementary School

Class: •School

Location Data

Year Built:1918
Year Abandoned: 1988
City: •Sand Springs
Photographer:David Linde

Riley was closed in June 1988, when the building was 70 years old. Most of its students were sent to Mark Twain Elementary School, 541 S. 43rd West Ave., or to Chouteau Elementary School, 575 N. 39th West Ave.

A task force had proposed the closing of Riley and several other schools after Tulsa Public Schools’ enrollment fell from approximately 80,000 students in 1968 to 59,000 in 1978.

At the time of its proposal, the task force was considering a projection that enrollment would fall to 52,000 by 1981. The district now has about 43,000 students.

In 1981, then-Superintendent Larry Zenke said Riley was one of five schools in need of major renovations. Between 1981 and 1988, the district expanded the facility and bought eight acres to expand its 2.5-acre campus.

District officials and patrons had expressed concern about the building’s cramped quarters and condition for years. Tulsa World archives show that in 1976, Frenchie Loving, director of the West O’ Main Improvement Association, said the building, “aside from being too small, is a fire trap, too.”

Danny Wasson, who lives three houses away from Riley, said the boarded-up school has been a common target of vandals and a popular night-time haven for homeless people recently.

“Police have been called there several times to get people out that wasn’t supposed to be there,” he said.

Riley is among properties that are scheduled to be acquired by the state for the extension of the Gilcrease Expressway, said Bill Cyganovich, the city of Tulsa’s lead transportation engineer.

The extension would connect west Tulsa to Interstate 44 and the Keystone Expressway.

Plans call for the route to start at I-44 and West 51st Street, then head north and east of 57th West Avenue, which it would parallel until it crosses the Arkansas River. It then would continue north to the Keystone Expressway, while running east of Terwilliger Park and atop 57th West Avenue.

Officials said the 82-year-old vacant school building was being used for storage.

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