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Public Being Asked for Input on Future Plan for Columbus City Schools

Anne Evans Anne Evans Public Being Asked for Input on Future Plan for Columbus City SchoolsNorthland High School is under consideration for closure by the Columbus City Schools District. Photo by Anne Evans.
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Another meeting of the Facilities Master Plan Ad Hoc Committee of Columbus City Schools was held on Saturday (which the author is a member of), the focus being to review options put together for buildings and pathways that were a result of the community surveys, projected attendance data, and data on the physical conditions of the buildings.

Options are literally all over the map, with some elementary schools moving into different pathways, grade configurations being altered, addition of preK in most elementary schools, more adult education programs being added, -but one thing seemed to be constant- closing buildings and building new ones.

Under the options there are six elementary schools that would be closed, due to either low enrollments or small building size. Those are Cranbrook, Broadleigh, Highland, Siebert, Valley Forge, Valleyview. Those students would be asked to move into nearby buildings. No mention was made of considerations for staff.

The condition analysis performed on the district’s buildings shows approximately 34 elementary schools, 13 middle schools, and 10 high schools that score at a 66% or more on the Facility Condition Index (FCI). (Buildings that recently had a rebuild/renovation were not included in the list). FCI is calculated by determining the condition of each system in the facility (roof, HVAC, electrical, etc). The percentage is a standard used by the Ohio Schools Facilities Commission, once the number reaches 66%, the facility is deemed a candidate for replacement or renovation.

Funding is available from OSFC for either renovation, or replacement.

When the cost of renovating a school building exceeds two-thirds of the cost of replacing the building, the policy of the Commission will be to replace the building. However, the Commission retains the ability to approve renovations that cost in excess of two-thirds of the cost of replacing the building if it is demonstrated to the Commission that the building has special historical value, or for other good cause shown. The Commission will co-fund renovations in excess of two-thirds of the cost of replacement, up to the cost of new construction. Expenditures exceeding the cost of a new building will be the responsibility of the school district.

When a building is designed with OSFC principals in mind, building systems are said to last about forty years, with the building itself lasting well beyond that. Districts that use this funding need to find additional funding, most often locally, to cover the costs of ‘extras’ such as auditoriums, sports facilities, preK spaces, and more.

Cafetoriums or auditerias (multipurpose areas that provide a combination theater and cafeteria spaces) can be co-funded with OSFC dollars. However, the recent survey of the public showed an overwhelming desire for separate auditoriums for both middle and high schools, as well as larger gymnasiums and outdoor athletic facilities.

When considering a school for their child, survey respondents said their top two priorities were 1) Program Focus (e.g. STEM, Fine Arts, language immersion, etc) and 2) Administrator and Staff. Safety and Location came next, with Condition of Building coming in 5th.

Options for closing high schools are once again on the table, with some proposals being consolidation into a new building on neutral ground. High schools mentioned to be considered with multiple options include West, Briggs, Marion-Franklin, South, Walnut Ridge, Independence, Whetstone, Centennial, and Northland.

District officials stressed that closing high schools are very agonizing decisions that are often made as a last resort.

Some options include keeping things as they are.

It was stressed to think of all of these options as considerations for 10-20+ years into the future, not for your current student today. The main goal is to ensure all students in all areas have appropriate learning spaces and that there are fair resources across all areas of the district.

Educational programming was not discussed.

In all of these situations, the community will have to decide what it is they want, and what they are willing to pay for. No confirmation was made yet of a levy ask being on the November ballot, just that preparation work is under way.

The community is being asked to join the conversation of planning for the district’s future during community meetings that will be held the week of April 18th. Discussions will be region-specific and held in small-group settings.

-Monday, April 18th 6p-8p at the Columbus Global Academy at Brookhaven HS (4077 Karl Rd, Columbus, OH 43224) to cover NE and NW regions

-Tuesday, April 19th 6p-8p at Marion-Franklin HS (1265 Koebel Rd, Columbus, OH 43207) to cover:
East, Center City, Marion-Franklin, South regions

-Wednesday, April 20th 6pm-8pm at Briggs HS (2555 Briggs Rd, Columbus, OH 43223) to cover:
Briggs and West
-Wednesday, April 20th from 7:30pm-9:30pm for District Wide Alternative Programs at a location TBD to cover: Language/program immersions (Spanish, Ecole-Kenwood, Hubbard Mastery), Prep Schools for Boys and Girls, Indianola Informal, CAHS, Columbus Gifted Academy, Columbus North International, AIMS, Fort Hayes

-Thursday, April 21st 6pm-8pm at Liberty ES (2901 Whitlow Rd. Columbus, OH 43232) to cover:
Independence High School, Walnut Ridge High School, Eastmoor Academy

For more information, visit ccsoh.us.

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