Cleveland Metropolitan School District plan calls for
a K-8 school in every neighborhood

by Chuck Hoven

(Plain Press, November 2007) One hundred and twenty people attending an October 1st Community Forum at Zone Recreation Center received an update from Cleveland Metropolitan School District Chief Executive Officer Dr. Eugene T.W. Sanders and his staff on the district’s proposals for changing its facilities plan.

The revised facilities plan of the Cleveland Metropolitan School District (CMSD) is designed to help increase enrollment by offering a K through 8 school within a one mile radius of nearly every household in Cleveland, said Sanders.

Sanders noted the district has roughly 55,000 students and 110 buildings, while the Boston school system with about the same number of students had 140 school buildings.  In updating the district’s facilities plan, the number of schools would be determined by how much the community was wedded to neighborhood schools, he said.

“There will be no immediate closing of schools,” said Sanders. While Sanders said he is “committed to listening to the community to make changes to the plan”, he cautioned that changes to the plan would depend on enrollment. He urged the community to help increase enrollment in the public schools.
Chief Operating Officer Dan Burns further elaborated on the district’s direction. Burns said current plan goals include an elementary school within a mile of nearly every home in the city of Cleveland. He said district planners believe the goal can be achieved for up to 98% of the city’s geographical area, replacing larger K-8 schools with smaller schools that would accommodate about 450 students.

Burns said that smaller schools are easier to manage, are better for teaching and learning, and would save significant dollars on the district’s  transportation budget. By building the elementary schools first and postponing the building and repairing of the more expensive high schools, the district would be able to build more small schools and use those schools to help increase attendance. “Building more K-8 schools sooner, I believe, will be a major factor in attracting students back to the district and increasing enrollment,” said Burns.

The district also plans to build one K-8 school in each academic neighborhood (groups of K-8 schools that feed into the same comprehensive high school) that will use a geothermal heating and cooling system. Burns said such a system would allow for lower heating and cooling costs overall, with additional savings on cooling if all the district’s summer school classes were held in buildings with geothermal systems.

With more students in elementary schools, according to Burns, the district could build larger comprehensive high schools according to the new population projections, rather than at low levels currently projected. If the high schools were to be built now, Burns says state rules would require that they be much smaller based on projections that the CMSD will have only 41,000 students in 2015.

Burns noted that the district had 77,000 students when voters approved the facilities plan in 2001. At that time projected 2005-2006 student population was 74,500. The reality now is that population is 20,000 less than expected.

Many of the students who have left the district are now attending charter schools. Figures presented by Burns indicate that there were 2,887 students in charter schools in Cleveland at the time of the 2001 bond issue. Currently, 19,000 students are in charter schools in Cleveland.


Effect on district school facilities plan  

Based on current projections, the 1,900 student John Marshall High School would have to be rebuilt as a school for 650 students under the prior facilities plan. Burns said the district hopes to postpone the reconstruction of Marshall in hopes that it can attract back enough students to increase the size to accommodate 1,500 students.

The West Side Relief High School once planned for W. 65th and Walworth was eliminated from the district’s plans because population projections showed it was no longer needed, said Burns. The high school was supposed to first house students from John Marshall while the school was being rebuilt, and then serve as a new west side high school to relieve overcrowding at Marshall, Lincoln West and Rhodes high schools.

Burns said it was easier to eliminate the new, not yet built school than to close an existing school. He said the reconstruction of Max Hayes High School has been moved up so the empty Max Hayes building can be used as swing space for the larger elementary schools and eventually the high schools as they are rebuilt.

The district wants to rebuild Max Hayes on a site of at lease 11 acres, said Burns. The current Max Hayes property sits on a five-acre site. Burns said one site under consideration for the future Max Hayes is the site on W. 65th and Walworth site purchased for the West Side Relief High School. Preplanning for the Max Hayes High School has started with construction expected to begin between 2008 and 2010.

A number of Near West Side schools are scheduled for rebuilding according to the district’s plans. Buhrer School, located south of Scranton in the Tremont neighborhood, is currently under reconstruction, with Buhrer students attending Kentucky school in Ohio City during the reconstruction. Construction on Thomas Jefferson in the Clark Fulton neighborhood is expected to begin before 2009.

Barbara H. Booker, Paul L. Dunbar, Scranton and Wilbur Wright schools will be rebuilt, with construction expected to begin between 2009 and 2011. Almira, Denison and Watterson-Lake schools are scheduled for the construction period of 2010-2012. Clark, Joseph Gallagher, Orchard School of Science and Waverly are scheduled for the years 2011-2013. The plans call for construction to begin on Lincoln-West High School, Tremont Montessori and Walton schools in the years 2012-2014. Luiz Munoz Marin and Marion C. Seltzer are scheduled for construction in the years 2012 – 2015.

A number of schools have been designated by the district to be maintained to remain operational. While there are no plans to close these schools immediately, they may be closed in the future if their populations do not increase.

These schools include Kentucky and Garrett Morgan in the Plain Press service area. Some citywide schools or special schools also in this category include Jane Addams Vocational High School, Empire CompuTech, and Martin Luther King Career Campus.

District officials said these schools did not qualify for maximum amounts of state matching dollars due to lack of population or other reasons, so the district plans to maintain them using its own funds.

Meetings planned for public input on plans for individual elementary schools and high schools were cancelled due to the tragedy at Success Tech High School. The district plans to reschedule those meetings.

The district says they do not currently have the funds to complete the facilities plan as presented. The Cleveland Metropolitan School District plans to go to voters to extend the bond issue to fund the later parts of the plan.

Individuals wishing to comment on the facilities plan can call the CMSD Facilities Hotline at 574-8413 or try the Talk to the CEO online comment form on the district’s website at http://www.cmsdnet.net.

 

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