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CLEVELAND, Ohio -- Although the Cleveland School District is leaving its longtime offices on East Sixth Street this summer, school board member Eric Wobser wants the district to increase its presence downtown.
Wobser has proposed using all $4.5 million from the sale of the district headquarters to the Drury hotel chain for creating a new school downtown, or expanding one or both of the district schools already there.
"If you look at the dramatic growth that's occurring in downtown Cleveland, that's an area we can nurture that growth," Wobser said.
The school board is scheduled to consider his proposal Tuesday night. Board President Denise Link expects members to back it, and both she and Wobser said they consider it fitting to devote money from a downtown resource to the same area.
They said the district would have to weigh what grades should be served, then decide whether to build a new school, renovate a downtown building or expand the existing SuccessTech Academy high school on Lakeside Avenue or the Campus International elementary school on Chester Avenue.
SuccessTech, perhaps best known for the 2008 shootings there, is rated in Academic Watch by the state.
Campus International is connected to Cleveland State University and serves kindergarten through fourth grade. That school, rated as Effective by the state, fills quickly.
While Mayor Frank Jackson and district Chief Executive Officer Eric Gordon both declined to comment on Wobser's plan, it was met with enthusiasm by others with an interest in downtown.
"I'm so excited," said City Councilman Joe Cimperman, who represents the area. He said that more young residents are living downtown, and that means more young families who want good schools for their children, just as in any other neighborhood.
Cimperman and others said that a major reason that families leave downtown Cleveland is the lack of schools, sending those families to the suburbs instead.
"Absolutely, it would fly," he said, referring to Wobser's proposal. "When you have a quality school, people will come."
Joe Marinucci, president of the Downtown Cleveland Alliance, said his latest estimates show 11,700 residents living between the Cuyahoga River and the Inner Belt. With 1,165 more housing units under construction, he estimated downtown could have 14,000 residents in another year and a half.
"We know there's a growing demand," he said. "We want to make sure that families stay downtown as their children age."
Marinucci estimated that 120,000 people who commute to work downtown would also add to the demand for a downtown school where they could drop off children before work and pick them up afterward.
And he hopes to work with the district to find a plan that works.
"We'd like to do a good deep dive into what exists, what needs we can project, and then look backwards from there at real estate opportunities," Marinucci said.
The Breakthrough charter school network, which partners closely with the district, has its E Prep and Village Prep schools just east of the downtown area and has the well-regarded Near West Intergenerational School on the near West Side.
Marinucci said he has talked with Breakthrough officials about starting a school downtown, but Breakthrough officials said they are not seriously considering one.
The Rev. Mark Giuliano of the Old Stone Church off Public Square, who also heads the Downtown Cleveland Residents' Association, said bringing a school to downtown has been a goal for a while. He said some residents would prefer a private school -- downtown residents are the most-educated and have the highest income in the city, he said -- but Giuliano would prefer a quality public school.
He said he and Gordon discussed putting a school in the church complex last year, but it didn't work out. The church partnered with the YMCA on a preschool instead.
"We need to give incentives to our downtown residents to stay downtown a little longer," Giuliano said. "Wherever the money comes from, a school is essential to strengthen the core of the city."
Ralph McGreevy, executive vice president of the Northeast Ohio Apartment Association, said that downtown is growing as a community and that all communities need schools to thrive.
"Downtown living is all about adding amenities and adding opportunities," he said. "When you're building a community that has had very little livable amenities, I think [a school] would be key."