Five months after the Columbus City Schools Facilities Task Force began to look at the future footprint of the district, the school board last night heard six preliminary suggestions on streamlining, realigning, and closing buildings
Alison Holm has more.
The first two recommendations from the Facilties Task Force involve simple attendance boundary adjustments. The boundary lines between Highland, Westgate, and West Broad Elementary would be tweaked, to make sure students don’t have to cross busy roads like Broad Street and Hague Avenue. And the lines between North Linden Elementary and Maize Elementary would be adjusted for a more even distribution of students. Changes would be made in time for next school year.
The third recommendation involves a greater upheaval of students, starting with moving the 9th thru 12 graders of the Columbus North International Program at North High School into the former Brookhaven High School, with the Columbus Global Academy. Students from Dominion Middle School, which is currently at 120% capacity, would move into North high School, which district spokesperson Scott Varner says could expand into an international language program.
“At the same time that you would still have those seventh- and eighth-graders that were in the International program staying there, they would be part of an expanded Dominion program. This would a unique opportunity for the staff and families at Dominion to kind of re-think their program to include a language immersion or specialized language program. So not only would it encapsulate those international students that are there, but it would also give us a unique opportunity to have a dedicated middle school pathway for our current language immersion programs at Spanish Immersion and Ecole Kenwood, as well as our Mandarin program that’s currently ongoing at Hubbard Mastery. So it would move the sixth-graders from those buildings.”
Because of the complexity of the proposal the Task Force is recommending these changes not start until the 2020-2021 school year.
The fourth recommendation, involving 13 schools on the south side of Columbus, would involve re-banding schools, returning to traditional grade divisions. South High School would house 9- through 12th grade, and Marion Franklin would become a 6 through 8 middle school. Buckeye Middle School and Siebert Elementary, which has been on the chopping block for several years, would both close. 6th graders would be moved from Fairwood, Lincoln, Livingston, Moler, Stewart and Southwood Elementaries:
“We want to give more of our middle school students that true middle school experience; not having sixth-graders treated like elementary students. So we would take all of those sixth-graders out of those elementary schools and put them into this new Marion Franklin middle school.”
The fifth recommendation would involve a similar realignment for Linden and the East Side. Linden McKinley High School would become a middle school, sending its 9th through 12th graders to East High School. Hamilton, Lindon, South Mifflin and Winsor 6th graders would move to the new Linden McKinley Middle School, which would also handle the districts ESL programs. Mifflin Middle School would close, and the students would transfer to Medina.
The final recommendation involves administrative sites for the district, and calls for closing the Morse Road bus compound, the Marion Franklin Opportunity Center in the former Beery Midlle School building, and the Adult Education Center on Lexington Avenue. It recommends relocating the services at the Linmoor Education Center, the Hudson Distribution Center and the 17th Avenue facility. And it calls for further study on what to do with properties like the Kingswood Data Center, the Food Production Center, and the districts headquarters on East State Street. The Task Force noted that several of these properties are extremely valuable.
While appreciative of the Task Force’s work, board members weren’t necessarily convinced. Board member Shawna Gibbs says that in order to avoid under-enrolled schools in the future, the district needs to consider why parents and students are choosing the schools they have.
“We’ve had open enrollment for the better part of ten years, and if students wanted to go East, they could have. So, I want us to study very carefully forcing students to go where they could have chosen – they could close right now.”
The next step in the recommendations is a series of four community forums to gather public input on the proposals. But acting superintendent John Stanford cautioned that people need to approach the recommendations with certain assumptions.
“As long as we understand that everything can’t stay open, and understand that we have to make a decision that is in the best interest of this community as well, and understanding that every transition, every change, requires for us to work through those changes together – those are the things that I would ask of this community as they go out into these forums.”
The public forums are scheduled for September 10th at Linden McKinley, Septemebr 11th at Marion Franklin, September 13th at Columbus North International, and September 20th at the districts East State Street headquarters. Full details of the Task Force recommendations are available at the Columbus City Schools website.