Monday, February 9, 2009

Akron Schools to close five buildings in major shakeup

I wasn't there, but I'm told there was a very serious tone at Monday night's Akron School Board meeting. When you vote to close five schools, serious is appropriate to say the least.

The casualties:

  • Goodrich Middle School
  • Reidinger Middle School
  • Lincoln Elementary School
  • Erie Island Elementary School
  • Stewart Elementary School

While students in the first four schools will be displaced to other buildings, students at Stewart Elementary will move as a unit to the new Crouse Elementary School and share the building. In short, two elementary school communities operating under one roof.

We knew this day was coming as David James said last week at his State-of-the-Schools speech that the district needed to "downsize" as there are only 23,800 students currently enrolled.

I heard rumors late last week that a high school might get the axe, but in the end it was the five schools above.

Clearly the staffs at these schools and the students too will have a lot to say in the next few days. I still need some time to analyze the impact, but on the surface, the middle school cuts make sense as both of those buildings fed some students to Central-Hower, which is now closed.

I sense that the board members themselves have to have taken this very personally as they've had to make a steady stream of cuts for the last few years.

More to come, but what are you initial thoughts?


NEOBuckeye said...

The cuts make sense, especially Goodrich and Reidinger. If you check out APS' facilities master plan (, they didn't quite seem to know what they were going to do with Goodrich, and in fact had projected zero enrollment for the building at the time of the plan's completion. Reidinger was eventually supposed to be converted into an elementary school. As noted, both were once "feeder" Middle/Junior High schools for the now defunct Central-Hower High School.

Any school closing gets very political, and people will wonder why their school was closed and not someone else's. The two middle schools were easiest for the BoE to justify because the high school/cluster they once supported is no more, and with UA and Summa's steady growth over the years, the surrounding residential community that once served as a semi-backbone for Central-Hower no longer exists.

The elementary schools aren't quite as easy to justify, but as they affect a smaller percentage of the population, they require significantly less in the way of "asbestos protection" for the superintendent and board members than closing a high school. The problem with closing high schools is that their identities are so closely intertwined with that of their respective communities that closing one is literally like tearing out the heart of its' community. Threatening to close one is literally begging for a firestorm protest at the BoE's doorstep.

Seven high schools is still too many, however, for APS' present and still-declining enrollment. Mark my words, something will have to give on this front within the next 2 to 3 years. There are a few possible outcomes, one of which is already going into effect with the consolidation of East High and Goodyear Middle schools into one building with grades 7-12. This is also being considered for Buchtel-Perkins, North-Jennings, and Kenmore-Innes, and could be argued for Garfield-Kent and Ellet-Hyre as well. (Firestone and Litchfield already share the same campus.) The benefit here is that you aren't risking the huge firestorm that would come with trying to merge two neighboring schools and their communities, as you are simply merging schools within a community.

If things get any worse after this point, then merging high schools may be inevitable. But then, so might be the consolidation of APS with surrounding suburban districts like Springfield, Coventry, Barberton, Cuyahoga Falls and Tallmadge.

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