Facilities ideas presented by district show big changes to elementary schools

The two ideas for new school facilities presented by the Cleveland Heights-University Heights City School District, at the third in a series of four community input meetings, show dramatic changes to the way the district’s elementary schools are configured. Currently, the district has seven elementary school buildings (kindergarten through fifth grade) and three middle schools (sixth through eighth grade). One plan would close all but one of the current elementary building sites, the other would close four.

The district intends to narrow the options to a single plan over the next few weeks, and present it in more detail at its fourth, and final, community input meeting on March 21. In the meantime, FutureHeights and the Sustainable Heights Network will host a community forum to discuss the issues raised by the plans at 7 p.m. on Thursday, March 1, at Noble Road Presbyterian Church (learn more at www.futureheights.org).

According to Angee Shaker, communications director for the CH-UH schools, the district considered nine ideas for school facilities configuration, but eliminated seven of them because they were cost prohibitive or did not follow current state guidelines for grade configuration and minimum number of students per building. The two remaining ideas, A and B, were presented at the Feb. 22 meeting.

Idea A would consolidate elementary and middle school education at three sites: Monticello, Roxboro (which currently has both an elementary and middle school building) and Wiley. Each site would also add a pre-Kindergarten. Approximately 660 preschool through third grade students would be housed in one portion of the building, while another portion would house about 700 fourth through eighth grade students. The two sections would share certain common resources, such as cafeterias and auditoriums, but social separation between the lower and upper grades would be maintained.

All three sites would house each of the district’s learning pathways, or approaches to learning: science, arts and society. Classrooms would be reconfigured into learning communities of 80 to 150 students that would share learning studio, commons, seminar, project area, small group and teacher collaboration area spaces.

Idea B would reduce the number of middle school sites to two: Roxboro and Wiley. Each site would house kindergarten through eighth grades, and share resources and social separation as in the first scenario. In addition, Idea B would preserve two existing elementary sites, Oxford and Canterbury, while adding a third, Coventry. Each of these elementary sites would also house a pre-K.

In this scenario, each of the two combined middle/elementary sites would house about 336 kindergarten through third grade students and 1,050 fourth through eighth graders. Each of the three elementary sites would house about 436 pre-K through third graders. As in Idea A, classrooms would be reconfigured into learning communities.

Both plans represent a significant reduction in square footage per student and in utility and operational costs. Both also call for the closing of four elementary school sites: Boulevard, Gearity, Fairfax and Noble. Idea A calls for the closing of the Oxford and Canterbury sites. Consultants presented several ideas for the reuse of these sites that they have been exploring with community stakeholders.

Both ideas would relocate the board of education and administration to the Delisle Center on Taylor Road, and the Options program to the site of Boulevard Elementary School. The district would preserve and renovate the original 1925 portion of the high school and demolish all subsequent additions, including the science wing.  New additions, housing athletic facilities and other specialized functions would be compatible with the original structure. Classrooms would be reconfigured into learning communities and circulation for student drop-off and pick-up would be improved. The district aims to achieve LEED Silver status, an energy efficiency and sustainability measure, for all buildings.

The district’s planning process began with a facilities report issued by the State of Ohio in April 2010. The district created a Citizen’s Facilities Committee in June 2010, which analyzed the report, agreed that the district’s facilities required renovation, and urged the district to engage the community in the planning process.

After the March 21 meeting, the district administration will recommend one of the options to the board of education. The board must then vote to accept it and, by early August, request that a levy be placed on the November ballot.  

Deanna Bremer Fisher

Deanna Bremer Fisher is executive director of FutureHeights and publisher of the Heights Observer.

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Volume 5, Issue 3, Posted 11:57 AM, 02.24.2012