Public Meeting at Tremont Montessori Plans for Enrollment, Curriculum, and Environment

Tremont Montessori Community Meeting

A special report by The Tremonster

The future of what happens inside the Tremont Montessori School to support the program’s growth in enrollment, accommodate the curriculum and create a quality physical environment was discussed at the most recent community meeting.

Roughly 50 neighbors, parents, teachers and even some students gathered in the school’s lunchroom at 5 p.m. May 19. It was the third meeting this year to gather feedback from the neighborhood and other stakeholders about how to update the 98-year-old school building to give students a 21st century learning environment.

The purpose of this meeting was to review an architectural firm’s estimation of what three options for the school’s building would cost if implemented. The full final report was not available for distribution, but representatives from the Cleveland Metropolitan School District shared a summary of the report for review at the meeting. A final version of the full report will be available after June 1 and will be posted on the District’s website

The first option under consideration is to tear down the existing building and build a new one in the same spot. This 68,498-square foot building for 500 students would cost $17.2 million. The District would be responsible for $5.5 million and the state would contribute the balance.

The second option under consideration is to renovate the existing building and build an addition to the school for a kitchen and cafeteria. This option would renovate all 119,744 square feet of space and would cost a total of $21 million. The District would be responsible for $16.7 million and the state would contribute the balance.

The third option under consideration is to perform some remodeling of the existing building. The remodeling budget is $5 million and would be used to make upgrades to electrical, plumbing and the building (exterior) envelope of the 119,744 square feet building. The District would pay for the total cost of the remodeling.

Patti Choby, Principal of Cobalt Group, Inc., a consulting firm assisting the District’s operations department on construction projects funded by Issue 4 explained, “With the passage of Issue 4, the District is fortunate to be able to continue its partnership with the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission which provides two dollars for every one dollar the District spends. To leverage this match, however, the District does have to work with the OFCC’s guidelines and processes that determine how the match is spent. This building assessment is the first step in creating a baseline assessment to inform the dialogue around how to invest in the Tremont Montessori building.”

One concern raised during the meeting was the number of students the building assessment used for its calculations. The summary said the new building would house 500 students. The school’s current enrollment is currently 577. And, contributing to this concern was the claim that a Montessori program requires more space than a traditional school program. Furthermore, a special education autism program offered at the school also requires more physical space.

“We haven’t made any final decisions,” on the number of seats, said Chief Operating Officer Patrick Zohn. “At this moment the Board has adopted a segment plan that allots 500 seats for this building.” He explained that if, in the course of this year of planning, a compelling case is made to allocate more seats to the facilities plan the District would take this request under advisement.

To further inform this planning process, the District is anticipating reviewing the full report for the academic architecture planning that is wrapping-up now. The committee formed last year has been meeting to discuss the academic vision for the school. Tremont West Development Corporation’s Executive Director Cory Riordan gave a short report on committee’s progress. He stated that the group has toured other Montessori schools and they will have a report ready to share with the community in June.

Both planning processes were set up to be separate intentionally, Choby acknowledged. “When this report is released next month we can use it and the baseline assessment to expand the dialogue with the community. The academic recommendations will drive the conversation about the best way to make decisions about how to create the best public Montessori in the state.”

Zohn emphasized that there is time. The District has slated construction for Tremont Montessori to happen at the very end of the overall Issue 4 construction schedule – which concludes in 2019. That will give the community and the District’s academic and facility teams ample time to draft a final plan in partnership with the greater Tremont Montessori community.

The next meeting will be scheduled in June to give people time to read both the architect’s full building assessment report as well as the academic planning report.

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