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March 12, 2014

Norman City Council grants Bright Start Early Education Center special use zoning

NORMAN — A long debate over special use zoning revealed a hole in Norman’s city code Tuesday night at the Norman City Council meeting.

Eventually, special use was granted for a private school in a 7-2 vote. with Council members Tom Kovach and Greg Heiple voting against.

Bright Start Early Education Center applied for special use zoning for a private school/early education center in the I-1, Light Industrial District at 2795 Broce Drive.

City code allows schools to have special use in light industrial areas but does not allow child care centers the special use designation. Why schools are allowed the special use and child care centers are not was not addressed.

What was addressed is whether Bright Start is a private school and early education center or a child care center.

The city’s definition of a school requires that it be regulated by the state. Private schools are not regulated by the state — their accreditation comes through national organizations. Bright Start is accredited, as are other private schools in Norman, including Community Christian School, which is located nearby.

“We have a curriculum for all ages,” attorney Stephen McCaleb said, representing the school. “We’re somewhat similar to Pumpkin Shell, which you recognize as a school.”

Bright Start presented a revised site plan, based on input from the planning commission. The school moved the location of the playground and expanded the parking lot.

Several people spoke in favor of Bright Start. Austin Childers said he is dyslexic and couldn’t read.

“Norman Public Schools failed to teach me. This is the only place that took me and taught me to read,” Childers said.

Justin Cervi spoke in opposition. He said CCS has a system and people out there directing traffic. He doesn’t believe a small operation like Bright Start will be able to do that.

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