The bright blue ribbon that fell in front of Dimensions Academy Tuesday signaled a new era for Norman Public Schools’ alternative education option.
Students and faculty have already been using the new Dimensions space for the past semester, but Tuesday marked Dimensions’ grand opening and the completion of years of vision and work.
“Dimensions really is the crown jewel of the 2019 bond,” district Superintendent Nick Migliorino told attendees at Tuesday’s opening and ribbon cutting ceremony.
Dimensions provides alternative education, along with social and emotional resources, for Norman K-12 students who need extra support. Before this school year, primary and secondary Dimensions students were split between two buildings: the new campus houses all students in one building.
Dimensions’ new space, a renovated building across the street from Norman Regional Health Systems’ Porter campus, is the result of the $186 million 2019 school bond, which funded projects district-wide and passed in a city-wide election. The bond proposition budgeted over $11.8 million to create and equip a new space for Dimensions.
“This truly has been less of a project and more of a labor of love for all of us,” said NPS Chief Operating Officer Justin Milner. “At the heart, of course, is the faculty and staff that’s kept this heart beating for many, many years, regardless of the service delivery or the facility. It is truly their labor and their love and their commitment to our students throughout the years.”
The new building has already breathed new excitement into Dimensions’ students and faculty. Scott Olsen has taught with Dimensions for the last 13 years, most of those spent in the school’s old facility. There, he taught in state-owned converted dormitories.
“To be able to go from a state facility to a school is amazing,” Olsen said.
The upgraded space gives Dimensions’ students and faculty access to facilities they’ve never had before, like an on-campus gym and a commercial kitchen. The building has a furnished apartment space — outfitted and funded by Eric and Nova Fleske of Norman real estate firm Fleske Holding — with a kitchen, washer and dryer, unisex bathroom with a shower, and multiple seating or lounge areas to teach students about home and life skills.
“There’s nothing like this in the state,” Eric Fleske said. “Most of our facilities that teach our children, you have an elementary facility, you have athletics separated, you have middle school and junior high, you have high school. We had to put all of that into one building … it took a lot of time, but I think it was really unique that we had that opportunity to really let Norman Public Schools set the standard in Oklahoma for an alternative school.”
The new space is the result of numerous community partnerships, district leaders said Tuesday. Donations from Norman Regional made the school gym possible, Milner said, while local vendors and contractors brought the building to life, Fleske said.
The community investment in Dimensions is something the students feel, Olsen said.
“We get kids that come from very extraordinary circumstances — different types of struggles and all different types of stories — and being able to come to something that’s new and recognizing that the community supports supporting them, seeing that, that’s one of the things about having a building like this, is that the kids can start to see, ‘Okay, I’m valued by others. Not just my teachers telling me this, but obviously the community and the support from the community and the district’ — kids feel it, too,” Olsen said. “So, just thanks to everybody that’s helped bring this about here.”