APS and Consolidation

by Rene Garrett

Published 6/4/16 ohiocom/Akron Beacon Journal, Writer Steve  Hoffman.

As a June 20 meeting between the Akron City Council and Akron Board of Education approaches, some council members are continuing their criticism of the joint project to rebuild or renovate schools across the city. Some tension is understandable. The final phase will involve difficult decisions, most notably the future of the three high schools that remain untouched: Garfield, Kenmore and North.

The number of high schools in the city long has been a subject of debate. The state, which provides 59 percent of the funding, proposed four. Local officials have looked at ways to keep seven, perhaps by building combined middle schools and high schools in the Kenmore and Garfield clusters and renovating North High. For City Council members, keeping neighborhood schools open is a top priority.

What now must be confronted in a realistic way is that the time for such ideas is coming to a close, shut down by enrollment projections that affect state decisions on what it will fund. Both the Kenmore and Garfield clusters suffer from declining enrollment. North has experienced some growth. Still, its students could fit into the new Jennings middle school.

The balance of students at those three high schools, now projected at 1,264, means that the state will provide about half the cost of building one new high school. As it is, that number of high school students is expected to shrink. In short, there is no hope in the foreseeable future for enough students to fill seven high schools.

What’s more, based on enrollment, the state no longer will fund any more elementary and middle schools in the city.

An additional consideration is the continuing cost of keeping seven high schools operating. While neighborhood residents might like the idea of a new school in their area, many likely would object to the taxes necessary to keep them running. Doing so would hasten the district’s need to put another levy on the ballot.

What bears reminding is that no high school student in the city would have to go far, even if only one new high school is built. The most likely location for a new high school appears to be the city’s southwest quadrant, where Garfield and Kenmore high schools are located.

What City Council members also must realize is the process for building and renovating schools has been open, through meetings of a joint city-school district review board and community meetings designed to gather input on each piece of the massive project. The same process will govern the final phase, the school board and council both approving plans.

The sound thinking of the Akron Board of Education is that all students should end up in a new or renovated building, with the right facilities to prepare them. Even with the realities of state financing and declining enrollment, that still is a goal that can be achieved.

Published 6/4/16 ohiocom/Akron Beacon Journal, Writer Steve  Hoffman.

As a June 20 meeting between the Akron City Council and Akron Board of Education approaches, some council members are continuing their criticism of the joint project to rebuild or renovate schools across the city. Some tension is understandable. The final phase will involve difficult decisions, most notably the future of the three high schools that remain untouched: Garfield, Kenmore and North.

The number of high schools in the city long has been a subject of debate. The state, which provides 59 percent of the funding, proposed four. Local officials have looked at ways to keep seven, perhaps by building combined middle schools and high schools in the Kenmore and Garfield clusters and renovating North High. For City Council members, keeping neighborhood schools open is a top priority.

What now must be confronted in a realistic way is that the time for such ideas is coming to a close, shut down by enrollment projections that affect state decisions on what it will fund. Both the Kenmore and Garfield clusters suffer from declining enrollment. North has experienced some growth. Still, its students could fit into the new Jennings middle school.

The balance of students at those three high schools, now projected at 1,264, means that the state will provide about half the cost of building one new high school. As it is, that number of high school students is expected to shrink. In short, there is no hope in the foreseeable future for enough students to fill seven high schools.

What’s more, based on enrollment, the state no longer will fund any more elementary and middle schools in the city.

An additional consideration is the continuing cost of keeping seven high schools operating. While neighborhood residents might like the idea of a new school in their area, many likely would object to the taxes necessary to keep them running. Doing so would hasten the district’s need to put another levy on the ballot.

What bears reminding is that no high school student in the city would have to go far, even if only one new high school is built. The most likely location for a new high school appears to be the city’s southwest quadrant, where Garfield and Kenmore high schools are located.

What City Council members also must realize is the process for building and renovating schools has been open, through meetings of a joint city-school district review board and community meetings designed to gather input on each piece of the massive project. The same process will govern the final phase, the school board and council both approving plans.

The sound thinking of the Akron Board of Education is that all students should end up in a new or renovated building, with the right facilities to prepare them. Even with the realities of state financing and declining enrollment, that still is a goal that can be achieved.