West Side Relief High School headed for Walworth site
by Chuck Hoven

(Plain Press, May 2006) A draft of the design of new West Side Relief High School and a draft outline of a partial site plan were presented to area residents at the April Stockyard Community Forum held on April 5th at VFW Post 62 on W. 61st Street. The Cleveland Municipal School District (CMSD) hopes to have the new high school completed by August 2009 for the beginning of the 2009-2010 school year. The school will be designed for up to 1,200 students and will be used by CMSD to relieve overcrowding at Lincoln West, John Marshall and Rhodes High Schools.

The site for the new West Side Relief High School is on Walworth Avenue just east W. 65th and Clark Avenue. Helen Piffard, a Community Engagement Specialist for CMSD, said the bulk of the site on both sides of Walworth has been purchased from the Westside Industrial Retention and Expansion Network (WIRE-Net). In the final stages of purchase, according to Piffard, is the Pat Catan’s Craft Center building at 6405 Walworth Avenue, which now houses a local church, Casa de Alabanza Oracion Ministerios Elim.

Piffard said this was the first of a number of community meetings to gain input from residents and stakeholders on the design of the school on the new site and what residents would like to see in the school. Meetings to plan the West Side Relief High School stopped about eight months ago when the district abandoned plans for a site on W. 65th and Storer Ave in favor or  the Walworth site. Piffard assured residents that ideas from the earlier planning sessions were already being incorporated into the design of the school on the Walworth site.

Piffard said she would work with a new core team of stakeholders assisting with the planning of the new school. She said the first meeting of the reconstituted core team would be in early May.

Architects J. Paul Romanic and Richard Bowen of Richard L. Bowen and Associates presented several draft sketches of school buildings on the new site. The school building will be on the freeway (Interstate 90) side of Walworth Avenue. David Bowen said the site is now being tested to see if additional environmental cleanup is needed. WIRE-Net had already cleaned up the site to meet standards for building an industrial park. Bowen said that before the school can be built, the site would be brought up to the standard for residential development.

Romanic said city of Cleveland officials are working with Apex Box and other businesses on Walworth to accommodate their access needs. Ideally, he said, Walworth would dead end at the school. Either another street or a turnaround would provide access to Walworth businesses, allowing for a campus for the new high school on both sides of Walworth. He noted that that the city’s design restriction for the property is that no structures be built on Walworth itself. He says an eight and a half foot wide sewer water culvert lies 40 feet directly below the center of the street. The culvert houses Walworth Run , the former stream for which the street is named.

While the project is still in the early stages of planning, Romanic says the purchase of the land will allow for a future football/soccer field on the south side of Walworth. Currently there are no funds to build the field and stands, as Ohio Schools Facilities Commission will not provide matching funds for sports fields. Romanic says the location near both Zone and Clark recreation centers will allow the school to work with the city of Cleveland to create a shared outdoor sports facility on the site. Discussions are already underway, he says.

Romanic, a resident of the Cudell neighborhood in  the new schools’ target area, is enthusiastic about creating a state of the art signature facility for the West Side. He says Bowen and Associates has a lot of experience with the Ohio Schools Facility Commission rules and believes that they can be creative within the guidelines provided by the state.

The school building will have 200,000 sq.ft. of which  49,000 square feet will be academic space.

The design has a main entrance located near the media center and administrative offices. Hallways leading from the main entrance area go to three small schools. Each of the small schools will have its own entry point from the main lobby of the administrative center. The outside of the main entranceway as currently designed has an overhang mounted on poles. A 1,000-seat gymnasium and a smaller auxiliary gym and two locker rooms are located at the rear of the facility nearest to the freeway. Architects say the large structure in that location will help to buffer noise from the freeway.

There will be 33 classrooms designed for 25 students, although  Romanic says as many as 30 studentscan be comfortably accomodated. Bowen says the orientation of the classrooms will take advantage of natural daylight. The building will also have windows that open and close. Classrooms will be equipped with four computer stations, video projection units with an eight-foot wide screen, and a hearing assistance system to assure students in all parts of the classroom can hear various presentations.

In addition to the classrooms, the school will have nine science and technology labs. The technology space will include a hands-on Computer Aided Design Lab, in response to a request by neighborhood stakeholders that the school offer both technical training and college preparatory courses.

There will be five small group rooms for student activities and other meetings; two art rooms with pottery kilns; a large music and vocal room; and a library. In addition to administrative offices for the three small schools, there will be three small offices for interim personal such as guidance counselors and schools psychologists. The rooms will include secure storage space for confidential files.

The school’s media center will be equipped for internet research. The gym area will have a main gym with 1,000 person seating capacity, two locker rooms and a smaller auxiliary gym.

Architects say the building will be designed to enable the small schools to  be closed off at night while retaining access to the gym, media center, music rooms, 8,000 square foot cafeteria/auditorium and small multipurpose meeting areas.

Residents suggested that neighborhood middle school students, who will eventually attend the school, be consulted about what they would like to see in the building, including color suggestions for the exterior and interior of the building. Architects said each of the three individual schools could have its own distinct color pattern. They also suggested different color tints on the windows.

In response to concerns about graffiti, architects said graffiti resistant building materials could be used. A resident expressed concern that the overhang at the entrance would create problems with wind swirl. Concern was also expressed about ice buildup on the overhang resulting in constant dripping, and the pole holding the overhang being a draw to climbers.


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