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Metro Schools Planning Renovation of Former Indianola Middle School

Brent Warren Brent Warren Metro Schools Planning Renovation of Former Indianola Middle SchoolA 2017 photo of the former Indianola Middle School. By Brent Warren.
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Metro Schools is looking to move its 6th-through-12th graders into the former Indianola Middle School in the University District.

Columbus City Schools sold the long-vacant building – located on about nine acres of land at 420 E. 19th Ave. – to Ohio State University in 2018. The Columbus Board of Education initially agreed to sell the building in 2017, but the transaction was delayed as the two parties struggled to craft a memorandum of understanding that they could both sign off on.

The move is part of a larger expansion plan for Metro, an independent STEM school that is currently located at 1929 Kenny Rd. A presentation posted on the school’s website outlines its goal to eventually grow to serve 5,000 students in as many as six buildings. The first step in the process would be to move grades 6-12 into the Indianola building, and to start a K-5 program in the Kenny Road building.

“We are committed to expanding Metro Schools to provide more students access to the Metro experience, including the students currently on our waitlist,” said Meka Pace, Superintendent of Metro Schools. “The Ohio State University has been a key partner in our school since our founding in 2006.”

When the Columbus Board of Education signed off on the plan to sell to OSU, several board members expressed concern that the building could end up being used by a charter school and not the district. Trudy Bartley, OSU’s Associate Vice President for Community Relations, said at the time said that any plan for the building would be “mutually agreed upon” by OSU and CCS, and promised that CCS would be a full partner in the project.

When a memorandum of understanding was finally signed by the two entities in 2018, though, it did not give CCS the power to veto future plans for the site.

Dan Hedman, of OSU’s Office of Administration and Planning, was careful to clarify that the plan has not been finalized, and that OSU’s Board of Trustees would need to vote on it before any lease is signed.

“We are exploring an agreement with Metro Schools and have engaged community members and neighborhood residents about this possible future use for Indianola,” he said. “The university looks forward to continuing to work with Columbus City Schools, our collaborations are not limited to a single building.”

Metro Schools was established in 2006 through a partnership between OSU and Battelle. Talisa Dixon, CCS Superintendent and CEO, currently sits on the Metro Governing Board, as does Scott Gooding, CCS Budget Director.

Pace said that the Indianola Middle School site “would offer several useful advantages for Metro students, including close access to college classes at the university.”

“We have also heard from members of the University District neighborhood in support of Metro’s proposal,” she added. Pace said that Metro’s current timeline calls for renovation work to begin in September, but “that process still includes final approval, the selection of vendors, finalizing of architectural plans, and many other organizational steps before work could commence.”

The building, which was designed by OSU Stadium architect Howard Dwight Smith and was the site of the country’s first junior high school, was featured on Columbus Landmark’s Most Endangered List for several years.

Representatives of CCS were contacted for comment on this story, but did not reply as of the time of publishing.

Editor’s note (5/7/20): This article was updated to include more information about the formation of Metro Schools and the composition of its board, which includes representatives of Columbus City Schools.

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