Northland News

Proposed school closings CCS officials get an earful from crowd

By ThisWeek Community News  • 

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

On Feb. 13, Baker and other district officials received 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 to not close their schools.

A strong contingent of supporters of Independence High School donned team apparel and shook pompoms 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 spoke talked about lifelong friendships in their schools.

Displacement, they said, would disrupt learning and break up "feeder patterns," whereby students could 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 would be retained or sold, officials said.

District officials, meanwhile, say they have few options after a 9.01-mill combination operating levy/bond issue on the November ballot was 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 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 earned a D in its performance index and an F in "indicators met."

Prior to the meeting, 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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