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State raises CMSD enrollment projections

New projections show CMSD with higher enrollment than expected in the next few years, and that will mean more state money for school construction and renovation.

The Ohio Facilities Construction Commission forecast shows CMSD with 37,053 students in the 2018-19 school year, when the District is scheduled to finish the last of 20 to 22 new buildings with the state’s help.

Just two years ago, OFCC projected that the District would have 32,443 students in what is called the “build-out year.” FutureThink, a planning firm, developed the forecast for the OFCC, using birth, enrollment and housing trends.

The commission decided to take another look after enrollment increased last fall for the first time in decades.

In October, the District’s data showed it had 38,915 students in preschool through 12th grade, compared with 38,049 on the same date a year earlier. Chief Executive Officer Eric Gordon attributed the reversal to growing public confidence in reforms charted for the District under The Cleveland Plan.

Enrollment projections determine how much money the OFCC will give districts under a state construction program.

Patrick Zohn, the District’s chief operating officer, welcomed the new forecast but said the impact is as yet unclear.

The OFCC contributes slightly more than $2 for every $1 CMSD spends on new construction.

Presently, the state’s share is expected to top at about $300 million, Zohn said. CMSD will spend about $150 million on new construction from Issue 4, a bond issue that voters overwhelmingly approved in 2014.

CMSD also plans to remodel 20 to 23 schools, with all the money for the remodeling coming from Issue 4.

Issue 4 allowed CMSD to extend a modernization program that began in 2001 after the roof at the former East High School collapsed. With money from the state and a previous bond issue, the District built and fully renovated more than 40 schools.

The new wave will begin with construction of 10 schools. Groundbreaking is scheduled for August or September, with completion expected by the end of 2017.