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Task force proposes closing 20 Columbus City Schools in initial recommendations

The latest Columbus City Schools task force charged with closing and consolidating school presented its initial proposals last night - but not before parents and others urged the board to press pause on the process, which is scheduled to produce final recommendations in a little over six weeks. A parent of three CCS students, Marielle Henault, told board members she believes in the promise of public education, and worked to pass the recent levy and elect new board members. But she says the premise that closing schools is the way forward for all is flawed.

"I don't know what these consultants have been telling you, but in the history of this country, this state and this city, closing schools has never been the solution to equity. NEVER. In fact, all of the research shows that closing and consolidating schools makes equity issues worse. Especially in historically redlined and segregated cities like our."

The task force which began work in February has developed six scenarios that would close about 20 school buildings, consolidating some grade levels and reconfiguring programs. The proposed closures are scattered across the city. This is not the first time the district has looked at closures, and an earlier task force drew up similar list of closures and consolidations in 2018. Those recommendations were never acted on. Enrollment in the district - which peaked in 1970 - has declined for decades. But parents last night noted that enrollment has ticked up in the past two school years, and the city's population is growing at a rapid pace - making it a bad time to close schools.

Superintendent Angela Chapman says the proposals presented Tuesday are just initial recommendations. She says community meetings will be held all through May, giving parents, teachers and others the tools to weigh in on next steps for the district.

"When we say the work is not done, we truly mean that. We mean that these recommendations are initial recommendations, and the feedback that we receive from the community during these engagement sessions will inform the final recommendations."

Under the current timeline, the task force will return to the board with final recommendations June 24, with implementation will begin in August 2025.

There will be virtual meetings about the closures May 22 and May 23 to give people an opportunity to ask questions. Links will be available on the CCS website. 13 gallery walks, with maps and information about the proposed moves, and an opportunity to submit feedback are scheduled around the city during May, with a on-air town hall slated for June 1.

A native of Chicago, naturalized citizen of Cincinnati and resident of Columbus, Alison attended Earlham College and the Ohio State University. She has equal passion for Midwest history, hockey and Slavic poetry.