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Former CMSD school now gateway to manufacturing

A former CMSD school has been reborn as a hub that will foster growth in the region’s manufacturing sector and introduce District students to skilled, well-paying careers.

MAGNET’S $18.5 million Manufacturing Innovation, Technology and Job Center will give small- and medium-sized manufacturing companies and start-ups access to expertise and new technology, raise career awareness and connect people to jobs and training. It also includes a wing where CMSD students will learn about or prepare for futures in the industry.

U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Janet Yellen and Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown attended a ribbon-cutting on Oct. 27. Yellen said MAGNET is “helping to incubate the next generation of innovators.”

The nonprofit MAGNET, which stands for the Manufacturing Advocacy and Growth Network, purchased and renovated the District’s former Margaret A. Ireland School at East 63rd Street and Chester Avenue.

CMSD sold the building for $790,000 and leased back space for the price of security and a prorated share of utilities.

Plans call for 3,000 CMSD K-12 students to visit each year. It will be part of a field trip for all sixth graders, giving them exposure to manufacturing. High school students will spend time there preparing for internships and careers.

“We’re really excited about this partnership,” District CEO Eric Gordon said. “This is not just a vision, it’s a vision in action.”

The facility includes a prototyping lab for manufacturers; displays, videos and hands-on activities; a technology showcase; and an engineering floor where students can have access to robots, augmented reality and more.

A STEM playground, designed with the Great Lakes Science Center and Cleveland Metroparks, will expose children to science, engineering and manufacturing through 3D sand printing and other features.

Ethan Karp, MAGNET’s president and chief executive officer, was moved by the sight of neighborhood kids cheering installation of the new play equipment. The STEM playground replaced old, battered equipment left for the neighborhood's use after the school closed.

“They were seeing hope in their back yard,” Karp said. “At that moment, I realized this isn’t just a building, it’s a beacon.”

MAGNET’S center gives CMSD another “place-based” learning site, adding to a portfolio that also includes classrooms at the Great Lakes Science Center, Cuyahoga Community College, Cleveland State University, the MetroHealth System’s main campus and the LGBT Community Center of Greater Cleveland.

It also becomes part of CMSD’s new Planning and Career Exploration, or PACE program, designed to help all students find their passions and chart personalized paths to living-wage jobs, regardless of whether they go to college or head straight into the workforce.