German Village Gazette

Proposed school closings

CCS officials get an earful from crowd

By ThisWeek Community News  • 

Columbus City Schools Board of Education President Gary Baker III said he wanted to hear from the public on proposed school closures.

Feb. 13, Baker and other district officials got quite an earful.

During a public meeting at Fort Hayes Performing Arts Center, parents, students and staff emotionally, and at times tearfully, pleaded with the district not to close their schools.

A strong contingent of supporters of Independence High School donned team apparel and shook pompons in support of their school.

Senior Sasha Williams credits the school for her acceptance into Miami University.

"I believe we do not deserve what you're trying to bring upon us," Williams said to thundering applause.

Many of those who took to the microphone talked about lifelong friendships created in their schools.

Displacement, they said, would disrupt learning and break up "feeder patterns," whereby students can attend neighborhood schools through high school.

The list of proposed closures additionally includes Brookhaven High School, Monroe Middle School, and Arlington Park, Fifth Avenue, Maybury and Siebert elementary schools. It is unclear whether they will be retained or sold, officials said.

The district, meanwhile, says it has few options after a 9.01-mill combination operating levy/bond issue on the November ballot was soundly defeated.

Closings are a move that could save up to $17 million annually for a district trying to trim $50 million from the budget this year, said Dan Good, CCS superintendent.

Residents will have another opportunity to approach the district. The second of two public meetings about the issue will be held Feb. 25 at East High School, 1500 E. Broad St.

Final recommendations will be made to the board by March 4. School officials said they wanted to make their decision by March 28, the deadline for school-choice lotteries for middle and high schools. The deadline for elementary lottery schools is April 11.

A group of nine administrators considered a variety of criteria about the school closings, including academic performance, capacity, enrollment, age and condition of the building, future use and accessibility.

Brookhaven, for example, has enrollment of 521 students, less than half of its capacity.

In 2012 the school was on academic watch. In 2013, the school got a D in its performance index and an F in "indicators met."

Prior to the meeting, Columbus Superintendent Dan Good told the crowd the district has 114 schools -- more than necessary for current and future enrollment.

"Closing schools is not something we like to do," he said. "We know you love your schools."

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