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School Issues: The Clinton Conundrum

Miriam Bowers Abbott Miriam Bowers Abbott School Issues: The Clinton ConundrumPhotos by Dan Thress.
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On December 17, 2013, the Board of Education for Columbus City Schools approved a measure to demolish a 1904 annex at Clinton Elementary School. Regarding the agenda item, there were no comments from the community that evening. The issue passed easily with a 5-1 vote. Only member Mike Wiles voted against the demolition proposal.

The vote signaled the end of a decade-long discussion. According to CCS administrator Carol Olshavsky’s testimony at the meeting, the district had spent eleven years searching for a purpose for the annex building. Failing to identify a purpose, the district opted for demolition.

And so, the process was over.

And then it wasn’t over.

The Clintonville Area Commission asked for a stay. There was a community protest against the demolition. A petition for saving the structure garnered over five-hundred names. Members of the community spoke out against the demolition to newspapers, television reporters, and at the May Board of Education meeting.

All this, for a 1904 building: a building with no utilities, no working bathrooms, and no useful purpose to CCS. Why?

Outside of historic preservation efforts, there might actually be a practical reason. It comes down to the questions asked by Wiles at the meeting. At the time, he asked how demolishing served CCS over the long term. It’s his question that remains:

“Since Clinton is at or exceeding (or about to exceed) maximum capacity, why are we not using that building?”

At the December meeting, one of the answers to over-crowding considered was re-assignment: keep the school small, draw its boundaries narrower and send students to neighboring schools.

That’s not bad news for those who remain “in” the boundaries of the district’s A-rated school, but it’s a harder pill to swallow for those who find themselves outside the school’s boundaries.

Especially when activists cite 242 lottery requests last year for spots in the school; exactly zero children from outside the neighborhood were given lottery seats to attend the the affluent school.

clinton-annex-02

As for structural soundness, The annex was actively used as classroom space in recent years, Whetstone teacher Dan Thress says, “My father was the principal at Clinton in the 1970s. I grew up playing in the gymnasium while he worked in his office on weekends. I taught in the Annex in 2007.”

Thress continues, “When I learned that Clinton was already over its desired capacity a year after renovation, I began doing research on why the building was being razed. As I had always known the annex to be part of the school, I was surprised that the annex renovation wasn’t included in the district’s plan for the school.”

Decisions made under the prior administration, when Gene Harris was superintendent and Carole Perkins was board president, called for a renovation of the main building that left the annex without utilities.

Which brings Columbus City Schools back to the Wiles question. In an interview last week, the former board member said, “The district needs long range plans for where it will be in five/ten/twenty years. How do you know you won’t need something in the future, without a plan… right now, the annex is a district asset. It won’t be after demolition.”

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6 Responses to School Issues: The Clinton Conundrum

  1. Anne Evans
    Anne Evans May 11, 2014 5:21 pm at 5:21 pm

    It looks better than modulars.

    I hope they can find a way to keep it. I never like to see buildings torn down, and it has historical significance.

  2. Jason Powell
    JPowell May 12, 2014 11:24 am at 11:24 am

    I really hope they find a way to preserve this building. It’s beautiful and much better looking than the “mini-prisons” that are constructed today. I find it really hard to believe that they cannot find an interim use for it.

  3. DouginCMH May 12, 2014 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm

    Why is it so hard to believe that a 100 year old building “with no utilities, no working bathrooms” wouldn’t exactly be easy to find a use for? It’s a lovely old building, but renovating it would be extremely expensive. Plus, the site on which CE sits is very tight. Any expansion of the school’s enrollment size would require additional staff, additional parking, and would put a strain on the marginal amount of green space available on the site.

  4. Posole
    Posole May 13, 2014 3:39 pm at 3:39 pm

    I agree with Dougin. I’d love to see them save the building but if they can’t find the money to do that then they need to fold their cards and enjoy their new greenspace park.

  5. Willy_M May 19, 2014 7:49 pm at 7:49 pm

    I don’t like seeing buildings torn down either but this multi-year process has run its course and — with no one stepping up over that time to raise or donate the millions of dollars necessary to renovate that building — its demise is virtually impossible to avoid at this point. If CCS sinks a couple million into refurbishing that structure (after already putting $10-15 million into renovating the new Clinton ES building) … can you imagine the justified howls of protest from the other local schools that don’t even have air conditioning yet?

  6. urbanenthusiast
    urbanenthusiast May 23, 2014 9:40 am at 9:40 am

    What a beautiful building. It’s like so many others that give Columbus and her neighborhoods character. There should not even be a question of demolishing. Repurpose, recycle, and reuse.

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