In an effort to keep them out of harm’s way, 800 Duncan Middle School students will not attend school on May 17, the day Halliburton’s shareholders will hold their annual meeting in Duncan at the Simmons Center.

Although the one-day closure comes just one day prior to the end of the school year on May 18, Oklahoma’s State Board of Education refused to allow the middle schoolers to miss a day of school, so DMS students will now be required to attend school on Friday, May 19.

The event will affect only DMS students because the school is located directly across the street from the Simmons Center.

During last year’s annual meeting of Halliburton shareholders in Houston, Texas, demonstrators spilled out of the designated protest area. Sixteen protesters were arrested, including eight who managed to get inside the Four Seasons Hotel where the meeting was being held.

Duncan City Manager Clyde Shaw said that talks between city and school officials regarding security issues began soon after the Halliburton meeting was announced, because demonstrators are expected to follow the meeting to this year’s site.

Duncan Public Schools Superintendent Sherry Labyer reported that school administrators also met with local, state and federal law enforcement entities before making their decision to close school for the day.

“There’s no way we’d put the kids in any dangerous situation. We just can’t take that chance,” she stated.

Other options were considered, said Labyer.

“We were strongly encouraged to find an alternate site for the children and to keep the buses from running along the street that day, but we could find nowhere to take all 800 students,” she said.

Labyer then requested a special waiver from the state Board of Education to eliminate one school day from the school calendar of the sixth through eighth graders.

The request was denied.

“Overall, this was the best and safest solution,” Labyer explained.

“And the 19th was already (scheduled to be) a work day for the teachers.”

Duncan’s elementary and high school students will still follow the original school calendar, attending school on May 17 and then attending their final day of classes for the 2005-06 school year on Thursday, May 18.

Only Duncan Middle School students will not attend school on May 17, and be expected to attend school on both May 18 and May 19.

“That Friday (May 19) will not be an optional day for middle school students,” said Labyer, “But we know some families already have vacations planned. They’ll just need to call in and let us know.”

Shaw said city administrators have been working with school officials and others to keep them informed about the possible events surrounding the shareholders’ meeting.

Shaw said the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center, located just north of the meeting site, has also decided to close for the day.

The Simmons Center has announced it will not be issuing day passes that day.

Anticipating requests for permits to hold civil demonstrations, Duncan’s City Council last month reviewed and revamped the city ordinance regulating parades and demonstrations.

The updated ordinance allows the city manager to designate a specific area of public property where the protest may be staged and requires a permit to hold such a demonstration. Permit applications must be made at least seven days in advance of the event.

As of Friday, said Shaw, only one permit has been approved by his staff; a request from the Oklahoma Vets for Peace.

“They stated they would be bringing up to 300 people,” said Shaw.

The grassy area in the front of the Simmons Center, between the south and north driveways into the facility, will be the area designated for the demonstration, according to the city manager.

No parking will be allowed in the front parking lot of the Simmons Center on May 17, he noted, so the far east lane of Chisholm Trail Parkway will be closed to traffic to allow for parking.

Shaw said demonstrators have been warned that there will be no public restrooms or shaded areas accessible to them.

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