Garfield Community Meeting

Garfield Community Meeting
Akron Board of Education
July 21, 2016

View Superintendent David James’s presentation on the building project and enrollment statistics.

Question/Answer

Below are questions posed by members of the community in attendance and answered by APS Superintendent David James.

  1. Why can’t the Akron Public Schools just be K-8?  

    Everywhere we’ve examined K-8 districts, it hasn’t been very effective. There had been some discussion about Innes becoming K-8, but then there’s no room for Kenmore.  We think it’s best to stop at grade 6 for elementary.

  2. Why did you have to spend so much money at Firestone at the expense of other schools?

    It’s important to look at per pupil cost when you compare buildings vs total construction cost because the student enrollment is very different. Firestone is our largest high school and Litchfield is a large middle school. Firestone and Litchfield have 1,700 students.  Plus, you have the renovation of the pool that serves the entire community.  Firestone = $77 million; Buchtel is $52 million.  But when you look at Firestone, the per pupil cost is $44,520; Buchtel’s per pupil cost was $45,676.

  3. Who paid for the swimming pool at Firestone and the planetarium?

    The pool already existed and was renovated.  The planetarium was a locally funded initiative.

  4. When $50 million is left, why not reconsider the Ellet construction and redistribute the funds to the other high schools?

    It’s $25 million in local funds, not $50.  We really wouldn’t have enough money to renovate the rest of the high schools.  It will cost over $100 million to renovate.  Ellet’s roof is worse than Garfield’s.

  5. Isn’t Firestone Park more of a value than Case?  

    Firestone Park was on the list to be rebuilt earlier, but then the Historical Preservation committee wanted us to consider rebuilding.  The state won’t rebuild it, though.  Now there are population losses in this area.

  6. Can you build a school closer to the middle of the city to absorb all three high schools?  What is happening with Goodrich?

    Goodrich is in very bad shape.  It’s the worst building right now.  When you look at building one big high school downtown, land is a big problem. We also hear loud and clear . . . how do we combine a Ram, Cardinal and a Viking?  The state told us we should only have four high schools.  We told them we can’t do that in this community because our high schools are deeply connected to the neighborhoods.

  7. How many students did Garfield lose to charter schools?

    I don’t have specific Garfield numbers with me, but these can be found on our website.  For the district, we have 6,800 students leaving to charters, vouchers and open enrollment; losing $32.4 million a year.

  8. If Coventry has to send all or some of their students back, do we have room for them?

    Yes, currently Garfield and Kenmore have capacity.  The board, though, wants to get every student into a brand new building.  We have to make sure we build new buildings to the appropriate size based on the population.

  9. Once the rebuilding began, why did you not combine the middle schools and high schools at that point?  Why did you not combine Jennings and North?  

    Back then, it looked like we could build more buildings, but when the enrollment continued to decline, we began to adjust.  Once we looked at closing East, we adjusted and started combining middle schools and high schools.

  10. Three similar questions regarding generating more income:  What about a levy or an extension to the levy we have? What about lottery money? What about Bridgestone as a partner?

    Yes, the lottery money goes to the schools, but the legislators have taken out funds from our school funds and just replaced them with the lottery money, so we don’t actually get additional funds.   In terms of a levy . . . how many of you have looked at your sewer bill?  The tax burden in this community is rough.  We have many senior citizens who are struggling with the current tax burden.  We would probably need $125 million of local funds with no money from the state.  I don’t believe it’s a fair option.  No matter what happens, someone is going to be unhappy.  We’re trying to spread the pain around so no one needs to take the biggest hit.  If we merge Kent/Garfield, we’ll be able to build it.  A high school costs $50 million.  I can’t imagine a company giving us that much money to build.

  11. Out of the five options, Buchtel seems to take the biggest hit.  Is there an opportunity for the community in Buchtel to give feedback?

    Remember, these are only options.  It’s hard to look at combining schools like Firestone and Buchtel when we just built them new.

  12. Is it true that Garfield’s attendance pattern was redrawn to help East CLC?

    When we closed Central Hower, we made adjustments and then we looked at the students who lived east of Arlington and made a minor change for safety concerns for students .  Ellet has had the most stable community than the rest of the city.  We’ve lost 10,000 students from when we started the project; 6,800 students have gone to Charter schools or open enrollment.

  13. Could the STEM HS move to another high school?

    They operate like Early College where students are taking classes across the street at UA, so that makes it hard to move them far from the University.  Rent costs approximately $350,000 at Central Hower.  At last night’s community meeting at North, a student came up afterward and suggested moving Jennings into North and move the STEM school into Jennings.

  14. Do the school board members walk through buildings to see their conditions?

    Yes, these board members have been through buildings with me and they know the conditions.

  15. It seems as though the construction project planning was short-sighted and didn’t seem to have a long range plan.

    The plan is not done in a vacuum.  It is a combination of the city, district, and state.  When a chip falls, it seems to have a ripple effect across the entire plan.

  16. How long did you know about the population decline?

    When we first started the project, we’ve had population declines every year since.  We’ve closed 13 schools in the district as we’ve gone through the project.

  17. Why didn’t you come to the public sooner?

    I’ve been giving this presentation since 2002.  I’ve used the same two slides in every presentation:  enrollment has been declining and what the state will pay us to build our schools.   There have been over 400 public meetings with the Joint Board of Review (with city council).  I’ve been consistent with my presentations every year since 2002.

  18. What will happen with the money left after the schools are rebuilt.

    The .25 percent income tax is only available for a 30 year period.  It will sunset in 2033.  The funds will be used to pay off the bonds.  Extending the tax won’t generate new funds for the project because the City cannot expand its bonding capacity.

  19. What is the economic impact for closing schools?

    This is complicated.  When I go down Kenmore Blvd it looks so different than what it used to look like when I started in this district.  We’ve been working with Mayor Horrigan to see how our schools can be an important part of the economic development and to explore options to repurpose any closed school buildings.

  20. Is Kent big enough to house Garfield and Kent?

    Kent is in bad shape and wouldn’t be able to accommodate Garfield and Kent.

  21. If you close Firestone Park, what other option is available for that land?

    One organization said they would have a buyer.  When we traded Hemminger with the city, they made senior housing.  I’m not saying Firestone Park is closing yet.

  22. Wouldn’t it make sense that Kent and Garfield get the new school?

    Yes, this is what I’ve been talking about all night.

  23. If schools close, will students get transportation?

    If Kent and Innes merge, then students will be transported who live over 2 miles away.  It seems the best option is to combine Garfield and Kent.

  24. Some people say that students are leaving because our schools are failing.

    I completely reject that.  We have excellent programs and many opportunities for students.  I sold Central Hower to give our kids scholarships.  We have great ROTC programs.  It’s like our own cable company decisions.  You get mad at Verizon and switch to Sprint, that’s how parents think about schools these days, but they always eventually come back.

  25. Why weren’t oldest schools built first?  

    All of our schools were in need of repair because of their age.

  26. Any thoughts about imposing a sin tax like Cleveland did?

    That would be up to the board and city council.

  27. How are we going to fill our neighborhoods when we don’t have schools in them?

    That’s exactly what we’re trying to look at.  With Garfield the best option is 7-12 combined with Kent.

  28. Do projections include students who live in Akron but go to Coventry?

    No, the state enrollment projections only count students actually attending Akron Public Schools.

  29. What if we assign all sciences to STEM?

    Science is a graduation requirement so they need to be in all of our high schools.

  30. If we don’t get a grade school or a high school, will we get a rebate on our taxes?

    It sounds as though the best option is to rebuild Kent and Garfield as a 7-12 building.

  31. Do you know how many students open enroll from Garfield to Firestone and Ellet?

    Sixty-five Garfield students open enroll to Ellet and 59 Garfield students open enroll to Firestone.

  32. Incoming students:  688 attending Garfield = 33 from Buchtel, 85 from East, 7 from Ellet, 8 from Firestone, 18 from Kenmore, 70 from North, 11 from out of the district, and 456 live in Garfield.   

    That equals 232 students that live outside of Garfield and open enroll in. 510 Garfield students who live in this neighborhood go to school outside (charter, community, parochial, and out of district schools).

  33. Where you would potentially build a school?

    For a Garfield/Kent combo, either the existing Garfield site or Kent site.

  34. Have you thought about staggering start times to save funds on transportation?

    We already triple route our busses.

  35. Have you thought about adding transportation to all elementary schools to compete with charters?

    It’s not always about transportation.  My Director of Community Relations is surveying parents who left right now with a consultant and the early data is showing that sometimes it’s not transportation.  People are being hyper-sensitive where they get upset and leave and then they generally come back.

  36. What is the plan for Miller South?

    The state won’t participate in the construction because it is a middle school.  At one point, we looked at EJ Thomas.

  37. What is the plan for 400 West Market?

    Potentially for administration so we can combine our 2 buildings into one to save funds.

  38. Why are you giving Case school $11 million?  Why don’t you reallocate students to other Firestone cluster schools?  You could use Case for athletic fields.

    There is a population of students there for that school.  The property is not big enough to accommodate any athletic fields.

  39. Where do you find the Superintendent's facility powerpoint?

    Go to akronschools.com and click on the facility link

  40. Please do a campaign to inform residents why they should stay in APS

    Thank you.  We’re working on this right now.

  41. Does the community have input on the decision?

    Yes, this feedback we’re receiving will go to the Joint Board of Review and then we’ll come back out to the community.

  42. Is it true that charter schools get first dibs on buying old schools?

    Yes, but there is actually a competing law that allows us to work with the city or other public entity on properties. For example, we’ve traded properties with the city in the past.

  43. What is the timeline?

    In August, I will present feedback to the Joint Board of Review and our School Board, then we will come back to the community by the end of August.

The Superintendent turned the meeting over to Patrick Bravo.  Mr. Bravo answered three questions related to the School Board:

  1. Which board members were not present at this meeting? 

    This is our third community meeting this week, some board members were present the other two nights.  Lisa Mansfield, Tim Miller, John Otterman and Patrick Bravo are here. Rev. Curtis Walker, Bruce Alexander and Debbie Walsh are out of town and not here.

  2. Why are board members silent at this meeting?

    We are here to listen to your questions and feedback.

  3. Why are the majority of school board members from the west side and not more representative of the city?  

    All school board members are elected at large.  After we’re elected, we assign each board member to a cluster so we can serve that particular cluster for anything they need.  We attend meetings, school events, and we’re here for any information or concerns you may have.
  • Tim Miller is North cluster rep
  • Lisa Mansfield is Firestone cluster rep
  • Patrick Bravo is Garfield & Buchtel cluster rep
  • John R. Otterman is East cluster rep
  • Debbie Walsh is Ellet cluster rep
  • Rev. Dr. Curtis T. Walker, Sr. is Kenmore cluster rep
  • Bruce Alexander is Specialty Schools rep

    On our website, we have a list of every board member and their cluster representation.