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CMSD revises facilities options based on feedback


CMSD is revising draft scenarios for new school construction, renovation and maintenance, based on feedback being collected at a series of community open houses. A final week of scheduled Open Houses conclude on June 19. (See schedule.)

The District presented a set of options late last month and immediately began a series of 14 open houses to answer questions, field comments and accept suggestions. Chief Executive Officer Eric Gordon has said that final recommendations will be shaped by what the public wants. Based on feedback collected before the open houses, initial recommendations limited the closing of older schools and spared high schools completely.

Since then, plans to build 19 schools have shifted from a distribution of 10 on the East Side and nine on the West Side. The latest version calls for 11 on the West Side and eight on the East Side.

“That may change,” said Chief Operating Officer Patrick Zohn, who oversees construction. “We’re only halfway through the community meetings and haven’t made any final decisions on these scenarios.”

The first set of options called for replacing Michael R. White STEM School on the East Side with a new building. But Zohn said: “The community has indicated a preference for keeping the existing school, and we are honoring their request.”

On the West Side, the District was exploring the possibility of moving the cramped Douglas MacArthur Girls’ Leadership Academy to a previously closed school that would offer more space. “Families want the school to stay put.” Zohn said.

“They love the neighborhood, they love the relationships they’ve built up in the neighborhood,” he said. “We are going to try to work with the building they currently occupy.”

This update of the Master Plan would continue a modernization program that the state and CMSD began more than a decade ago – after the gym roof at the former East High collapsed – but allow for the continuation of the work after local funds and state money that typically provides two dollars for every local dollar runs out. New construction will depend largely on voters agreeing to extend tax payments they agreed to in 2001 under the Issue 14 capital levy.

Recommendations for scenarios are intended to address declining enrollment projections submitted in January to the District by the state’s enrollment consultant, while ensuring quality school options are available in every neighborhood, a central tenet of The Cleveland Plan.

Gordon has told planners to be strategic in allocating the remaining 9,241 “seats” that the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission (OFCC) will fund. But he also has instructed them to keep plans flexible in case school reforms cause enrollment to rebound or the trend continues and downsizing becomes necessary.

Zohn has stressed that the District is replacing schools, not adding, and would design new schools with smaller enrollment in mind. For example, a proposed replacement for Iowa-Maple School on the East Side would accommodate 350 students, down from 575.

The Board of Education could vote on the plan when it meets at 6:30 p.m. June 24 at Clark Elementary School, 5550 Clark Ave. The Board has until Aug. 6 to place a tax issue on the November ballot.