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Central schools discuss new grade groupings

CMSD schools in Cleveland’s Central neighborhood are considering reorganizing their grade levels to create a pipeline from preschool to college and careers.

Marion-Sterling, which includes preschool through eighth grade, would take students from preschool through third grade. George Washington Carver, which now includes kindergarten through eighth grade, would switch to the fourth through eighth grades.

If approved by the Board of Education, the changes would take effect in the 2016-17 school year.

Alfred A. Benesch School, which serves prekindergarten through eighth grade, could eventually convert to preK-3, too.

School officials say the proposal, which was discussed last week at parent meetings,  would allow the schools to focus more effectively on early childhood or transition to high school. Staffing, based on enrollment, and other resources would not be spread thin covering more grade levels.

“A lot of our kids are one, if not two, grade levels behind,” Marion-Sterling Principal Adrianna Joy Chestnut told about a dozen parents during a morning meeting at George Washington Carver. “We want to make sure that every fourth-grader who comes into this school is fourth-grade ready.”

Because of low performance, CMSD has designated all of its schools in the Central neighborhood -- Marion-Sterling, George Washington Carver, Alfred A. Benesch and East Tech High School – as Investment Schools.

The designation is part of The Cleveland Plan for education reform and brings with it intensive intervention to raise achievement and coordination of community “wraparound” services, designed to help children and families overcome barriers to success. Both Marion-Sterling and George Washington Carver made the reorganization part of “corrective action plans.”

The Sisters of Charity Foundation has targeted the schools through its Cleveland Central Promise Neighborhood initiative. The foundation seeks to align services and guide children from birth to college and career.

Gerard Leslie, a former Marion-Sterling principal who serves as the District's liaison to the Cleveland Central Promise Neighborhood, said the schools have made their reorganization plans widely known.

Leslie said he has detected no resistance to the reorganization but acknowledges concerns such as transportation. At the George Washington Carver meeting, he encouraged parents to keep the discussion going.

“We’re intentional about trying to work with the community to make these changes,” he said.