Community Meetings Under Way for Cleveland Schools' Ambitious Issue 4 Construction Plan

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Cleveland Metropolitan Schools leaders are meeting with parents and other community members to showcase the district's next round of construction and rehab projects at school sites across the city: 22 new school buildings in four years and a spectrum of refurbishments across even more. This follows the $200-million Issue 4 bond issue from last fall and the overall district construction plan first started more than a decade ago.

At a February board meeting at Lincoln West High School, CMSD Chief Operating Officer Patrick Zohn explained that the district would take into account "robust and full-throated discussion with those communities before making a decision." A meeting at Clark Elementary last week was well enough attended, though discussion was far from robust. Residents were able to chat with Zohn, and did, about the various informational placards set up in the gymnasium and to write their thoughts on some brown parchment taped to the wall, but the idea that these meetings were anything but plainly stated open-house gatherings was quickly put to rest upon arrival. More meetings are scheduled throughout March (see below).

A final bond-issue plan for the first of three “segments” is due to the school board later this month. The two other segments (segments 8 and 9) will be due for approval later.

One notable undertaking, according to the draft, will include the demolition of the old Max Hayes High School and the construction of a new, long-promised westside high school on that site. Other new construction slated for next school year through 2017 includes: Campus International, JFK (a new campus), Charles Elliot, Skyline/Sunbeam, Waverly, William Rainey Harper, Oliver Perry, H. Barbara Booker (on the old Halle school site), Fullerton (on the AB Hart site). Twelve more construction jobs are on the list through 2019. Twenty-four schools are slated for rehab jobs in the same timeframe.

The future of Tremont Montessori is still up for debate. - ERIC SANDY / SCENE
  • ERIC SANDY / SCENE
  • The future of Tremont Montessori is still up for debate.
As far as design work, board members haven’t seen specific plans yet, but consultant Patti Choby proffered "a Ryan Homes-sort of idea," wherein five or six of the new schools would be held as models for the rest of the construction program. This would "hasten" construction progress, she said, and allow residents to pitch in more focused suggestions later on for future buildings.

School board members seemed relatively open to the whole plan, the specifics of which they and the district-sanctioned watchdog Bond Accountability Commission learned about only on Feb. 24. But it’s not like there’s a spectrum of real options being presented.

"We don't want a bunch of new schools that look identical to each other," board member Lisa Thomas said, referring to the way the design of McDonald's franchises tends to affect neighborhood aesthetics.

Relatedly, the school board itself has held off on funding the Bond Accountability Commission, an oversight panel created (and then reinstated after initial disbandment) to monitor bond spending. The board had promised to defibrillate the panel's funding as part of Issue 4's passage, but multiple delays have marked that resolution’s progress since November.

Funded at least through the end of the month, however, the BAC will issue an assessment report on the construction proposal prior to the March 26 board meeting. BAC administrator James Darr tells Scene that his goal is to “ensure that construction plans match what enrollment trends suggest the need for buildings will be.”

(On that note, student enrollment is down from approximately 70,000 in 2002 to 37,000 today - though a 2007 estimate had pegged this current school year at 41,000. Current projections have only 32,400 students enrolled by 2018. Darr cites Cleveland’s population loss and the advent of charter schools as two major contributors to that decline.) 

While the buildout plan is up for discussion all month, the overall gist of the district’s roadmap seems finalized, save for several exceptions. Lincoln West High School may be partially demolished or rehabbed. CMSD leadership is presently reviewing a 138-page report that will clarify which direction is more feasible and beneficial.

Also, the futures of Tremont Montessori and Michael R. White are unknown, due to substantial debate within those communities. Neither those two schools nor Lincoln West are part of the first segment of construction to be approved on March 26, so ongoing discussion is expected.

The remaining community meetings include:

Tuesday, March 10 Collinwood-Euclid
6 - 8 pm E. 185th St Merchants' Association - 877 East 185th St
Location is transit accessible with RTA Bus Route #39F

Wednesday, March 11 Old Brooklyn-Brooklyn Centre
5 - 7 pm Charles A. Mooney - 3213 Montclair Ave
Location is transit accessible with RTA Bus Route #20, #51

Thursday, March 12 Lee-Miles
7 - 9 pm Harvard Community Services Center - 18240 Harvard Ave
Location is transit accessible with RTA Bus Route #15, #19

Saturday, March 14 Central-Kinsman-Mt. Pleasant
Noon - 1 pm Vocational Guidance Services - 2239 East 55th St
Location is transit accessible with RTA Bus Route #16/Healthline

Thursday, March 19 Downtown-St. Clair-Superior-Hough
5 - 7 pm Case School - 4050 Superior Ave
Location is transit accessible with RTA Bus Route #3

Tuesday, March 24 Ohio City - Tremont
5 - 7 pm Tremont Montessori - 2409 West 10th St
Location is transit accessible with RTA Bus Route #51 and #81

Tuesday, March 24 Kamms-Bellaire-Puritas
5:30 - 7 pm Ascension Village Apartments - 14130 Puritas Ave
Location is transit accessible with RTA Route M-Redline


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