by Chuck Hoven
(Plain Press, December 2013) The Cleveland Metropolitan School District is hosting meetings to seek comments from residents about updating its Facilities Master Plan. A November 12, 2013 report by the Bond Accountability Commission says when the facilities plan began in 2002, “the district had 72,000 students and the plan called for replacement or renovation of 111 schools. But the District had only about 40,000 students last year, and the Master Plan, last revised in 2010, currently includes only 63 schools.”
At a November 14th meeting at Buhrer School in Tremont, district officials said projections now say the school district will have 36,000 students by 2018. They stressed the importance of not building or renovating schools that are too large for the projected population, warning that the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission would not provide a 2/3 match to schools for the portion of a project that exceeds the projected enrollment. They said the district has built new or completely renovated schools with a total seating capacity of 24,000 seats. Thus the state under current projections will only pay for an additional 12,000 seats.
The Bond Accountability Commission Report warns that the district should consider trends in neighborhood populations when locating schools, or some neighborhoods will have schools with too much capacity and others not enough.
At the Buhrer meeting a contingent of Tremont residents advocated for keeping a school at the site where Tremont Montessori is located. They said they just wanted a school at the site – either the current building or a new one. The building currently has 568 students enrolled, while it has a capacity for 625 students.
Some at the meeting questioned the wisdom of spending money on buildings when there were so many needs in the classroom despite the recent levy passage. It was suggested that perhaps instead of a bond issue for the buildings, another levy for instruction would be more important. One parent, comparing the facility plan to the needs in the classroom, made a sports’ analogy saying, “If you build a nice new sports facility and you don’t have a good team nobody is going to go.”
Indeed, when those parents not there for Tremont Montessori were asked about needs in their child’s school, most of the concerns had little to do with the facilities. Concerns were raised about having substitute teachers rather than full time teachers, the need for smaller class sizes, more support staff, and more afterschool programs. Other concerns were about safety and security, food and nutrition, maintenance and cleanliness of the buildings, and transportation. Also on the wish list were iPads or tablets for students.
A parent at Buhrer School complained that the school’s nice new computer lab had computers didn’t work properly. A parent at Luis Munoz Marin said her child was struggling with the new Dual Language program and is uncomfortable being thrust into Spanish class. She suggested it would have been better to introduce the new dual language program one grade at a time so students and parents would be able to make a choice to be in the program. She suggested there should be two tracks in the school, one for those that wish to participate in dual language and one for those that don’t.
In December there will be a number of additional meetings on the facility master plan. In the area served by the Plain Press, there is a meeting scheduled for December 10th from 6- 7:30 p.m. at Cudell Recreation Center, 1910 West Boulevard.
District officials say that if a renewal of the bond issue is proposed to pay for continuation of the building program, it would have to be presented to the Board of Education for a vote by May in order to allow time to be placed on the ballot for a vote in November of 2014.