Akron Council of PTA Community Meeting
Akron Council of PTA Community Meeting
Akron Board of Education
July 22, 2016
Akron Council of PTA President, Jill Hiles, welcomed everyone to the meeting. Beth Stanley led the Pledge of Allegiance
Meeting called to order at 2:12 pm by Patrick Bravo, vice president of the Akron School Board
Present: Tim Miller, Patrick Bravo, John Otterman and Debbie Walsh
Lisa Mansfield arrived after the opening of the meeting (2:31)
City council members in attendance: Marilyn Keith, Bob Hoch and Jeff Fusco
Option 1: Alexis Schuler presented pros and cons; proposed solutions; comments, suggestions and questions.
- How did the school board get away with building Hyre by itself and not with Ellet, when the government informed you that middle schools and high schools were supposed to be combined?
The state did not require the middle school and high school combination. We chose to do that when we saw declining enrollment?
- Who decided that is was more important to maintain consistency at Ellet, Firestone,·and Garfield more than your other High Schools?
We maintain consistency at all schools. Ellet was prioritized, as it were, due to significant roof damage that is beyond repair.
- Comment: All APS students should matter!
All do matter.
- Is Helen Arnold big enough to house Miller South Student body including band room, dance room,vocal room, art room, costume storage, etc.?
Helen Arnold was built for 452 students, but can accommodate more. The drawback is it doesn’t have an auditorium. While we put it out there as an option, we’ll need to retrofit for Miller South.
- Comment: Miller South School should be sent to Firestone High: The room is there and it will be more place with no money spent!
Miller South is a 4-8 program, so it wouldn’t fit in FHS. FHS is 1,700 student population.
- Comment: Move Miller South to Hyre and use the money you plan to give to Ellet and do what is right and build Ellet and Hyre together.
We are considering several options.
- Why are Ellet and Hyre left alone in every option?
Hyre is already built and is at capacity. Ellet will also be at capacity when it is built.
- Comment: Stabilize our community schools and use the levy money which we passed for you to maintain and fortify our schools.
We continue to make sound decisions in our master building plan.
- What has the money been spent on? Where has this gone? Taxpayers want answers NOW.
Drive around Akron. Your answer is in the 30 new schools we have built. Very visible answer.
- Comment: One big school should be built by the rolling acres mall and put all the schools up there and bus them as well.
Thank you for the suggestion.
- Is there a possibility to move Miller South to Litchfield or closer to Firestone - share new auditorium and facilities?
- Comment: Extend income tax levy to build local schools on our own.
We’ve talked with financial experts and the cities bonding capacity is $25 million. It is 2033 when the income tax expires. Extending it will not allow additional bonding to happen due to the city's bonding capacity.
- Why not build one school in the city and bus the 3 remaining high school students there?
Land is an issue to find one location downtown.
Option 2: Beth Stanley presented pros and cons; proposed solutions; comments, suggestions and questions
- Comment: We do not need more specialty schools; we need quality for all schools
We are making good decisions in this regard.
- Comment:We need quality education for all.
We are providing this.
- Comment: No more lotteries for specialty schools.
Thank you for that suggestion.
- How much does it cost to operate Garfield/North/Kenmore (add staffing)
That hasn’t been calculated yet.
- What capital improvements are needed (Fans, boilers, roofs)?
North: Roof, network and heating; Kenmore: Roof, network; Garfield: roof, network
- Comment: Keep neighborhoods together.
We are doing our best in this area, but the demands of our shifting population in the city of Akron present challenges to this.
- Why aren't existing community infrastructures being considered in cost/benefit calculations?
I’m not sure what you mean by this question.
- Why aren't decreasing home values as a result of all projections - which is the most probable scenario - being figured into the calculations?
Because home values are based on much more than schools.
- Why does this present crisis seem manufactured? How did things get to this point without community engagement and feedback? When did the state come in and tell you that enough is enough and only 1more? Was it a week before you threw out these options?
We have kept the community updated with public meetings, public information on our website and via our partnership with the city and its informational vehicles for more than 15 years and on a timely basis.
- The decrease in tax rates; population has been decreasing across the entire city which impacts all of our tax rates?
I’ve been presenting this since 2002; I’ve closed 13 buildings; I’ve had the same 2 slides in every presentation - enrollment is declining - Over 400 joint board of review meetings; The project scope has been changing continuously as we’ve worked through the project. We’re at a point now where the state is saying they will only fund 1,222 students.
Option 3: Beth Smith presented pros and cons; proposed solutions; comments, suggestions and questions
- How will education at Firestone remain as high?
I’m not sure just because we merge schools it will change the quality of the education.
- What is the attendance of Kenmore, Buchtel and Firestone students?
Buchtel - 661; Kenmore - 534; Firestone - 827
- What is the cost to operate Garfield/North/Kenmore per student?
(See Option 2, A4)
- What will be done to address the language barrier for students at North if you combine buildings?
The interpreters would follow the students.
- Why isn't a scenario where APS develops a feasible plan to preserve existing neighborhood and community schools that would require additional LOCAL funding being presented?
We’re trying to stay off the ballot; there are a lot of seniors; water and sewer bills are high.
- What is the plan to go back to the drawing board and don’t end up with a Scarborough moment here in APS?
We’re trying to go out and get input from the community.
- If APS is competing for students and APS is trying to "sell" its product, why go forward with options that nobody wants because of costs, inequities, community disruptions?
These are just options we’re looking at. Based on input from the community, we’ll have further discussions. You’re right there.
- Why hasn't more been done politically at the state level to champion more funding or more thought resources? Hire Don P. to fight for his kids. Can't we at least get more time? Short decision time frames increase the likelihood of BAD decisions.
We’ve fought for equitable funding at the state level and we’ve lost. The city has fought for sewer project and lost.
- Comment: Move Ellet school line to Route 8.
We’ll look at this.
- All of those options are terrible. Go back to start,engage the neighborhoods, get buy in and get more thought and funding to do this right! Go back to the original plan and get as close as possible in the very least and explain why more funding is needed?
We have 10,000 less students than the beginning of the plan, so the original plan will not work.
- Can the PTA be helpful in any way?
Just by you being here today, you’ve been very very helpful.
Option 4: Beth Stanley presented pros and cons; proposed solutions; comments, suggestions and questions.
- Inner city schools aren't receiving the same treatment. Ellet gets rebuilt, but what about the rest of the schools - equally distribute the budget!
We have built several new schools in every cluster in the district.
- Comment: Ellet has 500+ less students than North/East CLC. Ellet has to change.
Ellet - 1,045; East has 743; North has - if you’re talking about combining schools. We have many factors to consider. Population is one consideration.
- What transportation will you provide to our North ELL population if they combine with East?
Yes, we would need to provide some type of transportation. We’ve talked about Metro about offering bus passes.
- Comment: Middle school students travel too far.
Middle school students would be provided transportation.
- Where was Ellet during the levy? They always turn it down?
Over the years, Ellet’s passage rate has increased over the years and is getting closer to 50%
- Why is Ellet left intact on every plan?
(See Option 1, A7)
- Comment: Move Miller South to Helen Arnold.
(See Option 1, A4)
- Comment: Move North/East Southern section south of 76 to Ellet when new school is built; there will be enough room.
We’re looking at that to rebuild boundaries.
- Allow students from Garfield and East to go to Ellet?
- Comment: Take 6th grade out of middle schools so you can put all community high and middle schools on the same campus; Innes & Kenmore / Jennings & North / Kent & Garfield. Take 6th grade students out of East and put them in elementary, then you could fit all North and East students into East.
Thank you for the suggestion.
- Comment: Draw the line between Garfield & Ellet at Hwy 76. Divide those students between the two schools.
Plans are already in gear for Ellet’s CLC.
Option 5: Glorya Porter presented pros and cons; proposed solutions; comments, suggestions and questions.
- Are we more invested in the education of our youth or their athletic abilities? Will playing sports help them post-high school graduation?
Sports are important as well as arts. When I shake hands at graduation, we have students going into military, the arts and athletes. They’re all important.
- All we do is teach to the testing, so what incentive do we have to keep our students in APS schools?
We’ve heard a lot about the state testing. We need to focus on how to use our money smartly with the rest of...
- Try downsizing the principal staff; you find money for everything else. Why not consider the kids for a change?
We’ve cut principals as we’ve closed buildings and shifted funds to classrooms.
- What would you do if we all opted out and/or go to charter schools and do away with APS?
Charters couldn't close APS since their money flows through our district.
- How will the unique needs of the North & East students be addressed by increasing the number of students?
Whenever we move students, the resources flow with the students.
- Comment: Treat our children as the jewels that they are and dig deep to meet the needs of our children and quit making excuses.
I think we’ve outlined the challenges between enrollment, budgets and state facility requirements.
- Do you really want our help? Are you listening?
This is the fourth meeting this week. I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t want to listen.
- If you close these schools and shift children around, is that going to help the situation?
We’re trying to find a way with your input to ease the pain.
- Move the 347 displaced kids to Ellet and the New Kenmore/Garfield.
If there was an option for Garfield/Kent, they would be closer to capacity.
- Comment: Expand Buchtel district back to pre-2010 district boundaries.
There has been a large exodus out of certain areas with vacant homes.
- Keep Buchtel cluster the same; re-zone so that children in the home neighborhood will not have to be bussed out to another area. If we lose a high school, our property value will go down. Has anyone considered the trouble you are creating with the students by combining these schools together? Are you trying to create a WAR?
No one’s trying to start a war. It is a big consideration that we’re taking into account.
- Put North in Jennings; that will keep room available in East HS for the 347 seventh and eighth graders. Keep North and Jennings.
We may have to keep a building or use an elementary building for these students.
Questions from emails:
- Comment: Firestone residence was specifically chosen because of the great neighborhood and schools in this area.
- Comments: If Buchtel and Firestone is combined:
Potentially ruining the best school by putting it with one of the worst.
Crime in other areas in the district is higher. Sending kids to schools in higher crime areas than where they are normally and can potentially harm these individuals.
Firestone area stands to lose not only the education of our children, but also the value of our property.
Many neighbors have stated that if this goes through, they will be selling their homes and moving out of the district.
- Comments on possible options:
Combine lower enrollment areas such as Buchtel and Kenmore.
Combine similar environments.
Rebuild Garfield and combine North with East. By Re-building Garfield which is south of downtown could prove to be crucial toward stabilizing our downtown's future.
North also has low enrollment - by combining with East (already built) a successful enrollment could provide a viable solution.
Find other ways to raise funds to build a second high school, maybe through corporate funding.
Request not to combine Firestone with Buchtel or with any other school.
We are aware of these concerns and have given consideration to each of them during the course of our rebuilding program.
- Comments on Firestone:
Firestone is a magnet school with schools for the Arts and IB program.
If combined with Buchtel,parents will pull those talented kids out of these programs and send them to other schools or move out of Akron altogether.
- Comment: Leave Firestone alone.
It is unlikely we will change Firestone.
- Comment: Close Case. Do not rebuild for Case; but as a new Miller South. Send Case students to King and Resik.
We wouldn’t save that much money and there are students...
- The transfer station will be slammed with students trying to get to their new high school. Can we provide high school transportation?
We will be looking into this. We’re in conversations with Metro about potential route changes to help students.
- APS promised a new high school for every cluster.
When the original plan was constructed, the plan was to build for 30,000 students. Since then that has changed due to 10,000 less students since 2002.
- What are your options when population increases?
Just because a building closes, we’ll try to work with the city for different use for the buildings. If population increases, then we can reopen schools.
- Why can’t parents choose where to send their students?
They can, through open enrollment.
- Do you know where rival gangs are located?
Yes, that’s a challenge…
- Why can’t sports be available at every high school?
At Jennings and Innes there will be challenges for sports due to the lack of facilities. At Kenmore, there are not many students to field a team.
- If you combine Garfield/Kenmore, would they be in separate wings?
They take on one identify.
- Comment: I think this number is higher than the capacity.
I’m not sure to what your question relates.
- Miller South into Case; could use Firestone’s facilities; what if Miller South was split? What if Case was an elementary performing arts and then moved middle school Miller South into Litchfield as a school within a school, but would need to limit open enrollment?
We are considering many options for Miller South, including one involving the use of Firestone/Litchfield.
- Would Case’s residents move into King and Resnik? Would there be enough room at King and Resnik?
If we limited open enrollment, there might be room. We’re looking at these numbers.
- If you don’t rebuild Case, maybe it’s worth saving these funds to help offset budget deficit.
Facility funds are not allowed to be used for operating, so we can’t mix these funds.
- Do you know whether the building is truly unacceptable for educational purposes?
There’s a capacity chart based on square footage. We can absorb 10,000 students into our buildings we have right now. Garfield, Kenmore and North have significant facility needs. The 8 buildings left, we would need $100 million to renovate or rebuild. At Kenmore, we have 543 students. A little over 300 live in Kenmore. Almost 200 are coming from outside. Innes down the street has a capacity of 800, but only has a little over 300. That’s why we’re looking at combining Kenmore and Innes.
- If Kenmore is still viable, why is APS having such trouble keeping up with our facilities?
We’re spending $3 million out of our building budget for bonds. Old buildings drain our general fund for utilities, insurance, etc. When we have excess square footage, it’s a drain.
- Are you considering moving Kenmore to Innes instead of closing Kenmore? Miller South to Case? STEM HS to Innes to save on rent?
We would need to get funds to renovate Kenmore.
- Comment: Don’t rebuild Case and use the funds to renovate Helen Arnold.
That might work.
- What is the plan for the current building used for swing space for Case and Harris? Does the district own that building? If we are renting what is the cost? (Possible Miller South or STEM High combined with bio-tech programs) 400 W. Market?
We own that building. One idea is to move our 2 administration buildings into that building to save funds. It’s designed for elementary students, so middle school couldn’t go in there.
- What is it costing the district to use Central Hower? What is the long-term plan for STEM High?
We don’t own this building. We pay $350,000 rent each year. We use ½ of building for STEM HS. Someone recommended moving STEM HS out of CH to STEM MS Then move STEM MS at another building.
- I understand that the Columbus SD created plans that provided for all of their high schools to be rebuilt. Is this true? Are they better at this “game” than we are?
The difference in Columbus is they’ve closed a lot of their inner city buildings and they are growing on the outskirts of the city. They have many different communities where you may live in Worthington but you go to Columbus school. They didn’t do an income tax. They have a lot more students.
- Will students in Helen Arnold district be allowed to attend if it’s converted to an arts school?
- Why are all the career education programs being taken out of Buchtel?
- What is plan for Miller South? Have you explored moving it to FHS cluster to allow for VPA continuity?
We looked at potential to move it into EJ Thomas Hall. We don’t have money to rebuild it, but we’re looking at creative ways to move it or find partners to help rebuild it. It’s not going away.
- Why invest in turning FHS cluster into IB candidate schools K-12 and propose options that do not value that?
The decision was made to increase the IB options across the entire cluster.
- How does intra-district enrollment impact these school population figures? Are people attending their neighborhood schools or enrolling outside?
We have students going all over the place. At the high school level, students also take advantage of our career programs in other high schools. Open enrollment is a state law. There is a lot of open enrollment across the district.
- Miller South is a very successful program in an older building. Why kick out poor black kids from Helen Arnold, and then build ½ million dollar theater at Helen Arnold so Miller South can enjoy newer building at poor black kids’ expense?
The kids at Helen Arnold would move into new buildings. The board was very clear to get all kids into new buildings. On the plan we have, when we’re done with a high school, we’ll see if we have money left over to elementary schools like Pfeiffer.
- When will the construction be completed regardless of option chosen?
October 27th, the state facility commission is meeting where they could approve our plan. Our planning for the option chosen would start before the end of the fiscal year. High schools take 3 to 4 years to build.
- Could Miller South fit into Firestone Park Elementary?
We can look at that, but that is a building that needs a lot of renovation.
- Is there money available to re-model Helen Arnold if it is to become Miller South?
This is the challenge to look at how to renovate; 450 student capacity at Helen Arnold with only 300 students there now.
- What is the future for Bettes?
Most likely will be merged with Harris. State won’t pay for any more elementary schools.
- Akron University students get free bus passes on Metro. Will APS students?
Someone's paying for that, it’s not free. We’re looking at options for metro.
- Hyre’s (a new facility) cafeteria ceiling is so high it is a waste of heat, space and poor sound system...Why?
New buildings are built this way.
- If Coventry stops open enrollment, what will we do with these students?
We’d need to look at where they would go to school.
- What is APS doing to get the students back who have left the district? Are you doing anything to attract students back to APS?
Our Community Engagement office is surveying parents right now who have chosen to leave APS to look at why. It’s like cable company - we get mad and switch to Uverse. Parents do that with schools now.
- Why are all career development programs being removed from Buchtel?
- If Coventry ends open enrollment and 400-600 children “return” to the Kenmore cluster - where will we house them with the options currently under consideration? Do we have a contingency plan for this possibility?
We are discussing it.
- Where would Helen Arnold students go if closed?
That hasn’t yet been determined.
- What will happen to the buildings that closed (e.g., Smith, Lawndale)
Decisions on that have not yet been made.
As the board and superintendent go through this to make changes the community needs to know that as an involved parent they work overtime for us and the kids that come to APS. No decision is easy; not everyone will be happy. I continually hear why was the community left out of all this...We were not left out. Anyone and everyone can attend any of the two board meetings held monthly. We voted for these board members because we believe they have the best interest for our community. When you have concerns, questions, or may just maybe compliments feel free to contact the board. They do listen. Change is not easy, but necessary. Thank you to the board and superintendent for all your hard work from this APS family, we appreciate you.
PTA President provided closing remarks.
Meeting closed at 3:47 pm