by Tom Ott
CMSD NEWS BUREAU
Cleveland Metropolitan School District (CMSD) will hold a series of public meetings, starting next month, on a revised plan for its buildings and decisions that will affect the look of the District for years to come.
CSA The five-year master facilities plan, which is still being developed, will seek to make efficient use of schools, deal with declining and shifting enrollment and get the most out of limited state construction funds, all while ensuring that every neighborhood has access to high-quality academic options.
Some schools could merge, and construction priorities might shift. The Board of Education could ask voters to renew the bond issue — Issue 14 — that they approved in 2001. That would ensure the District can continue to improve older schools and build replacements for other schools that are obsolete.
“We believe that we have been good stewards of Issue 14 funds, which allowed us to make important investments in our neighborhood schools, and now is the time to update the plan to finish the job,” Chief Operating Officer Patrick Zohn said. “We have a unique opportunity, in partnership with the state, to continue this successful construction program. It is an investment in the future of education, which is an investment in the future of our city.”
Before work started on the plan, Zohn presided at 13 meetings across the District. The last was Jan. 9 at the Collinwood Recreation Center.
Neighborhoods were alerted through automated calls, fliers sent home with students and announcements on the CMSD website, www.ClevelandMetroSchools.org. Zohn estimated that the meetings drew an average of 40 people.
Participants broke into small groups to discuss what they wanted in a school, but first Zohn passed out fact sheets with enrollment figures for buildings in each neighborhood. He said the District might need to merge schools in some neighborhoods for efficiency or replace schools to serve shifting populations of school-age children.
The state has invested nearly $700 million in District construction projects since 2001, putting in $2 for every $1 spent by CMSD from the bond issue. So far, the District has built 31 schools, renovated seven others and has three more high schools under construction — Max S. Hayes, John Marshall and Cleveland School of the Arts.
The state will cap its total financial contribution, based on the number of students that its enrollment consulting firm projects the District will have in the year the collaboration is expected to end. The “build-out” year, as it is called, is now set at 2017-18.
During the first round of meetings, Zohn said that the most recent projection, made in 2012, estimated the 2017-18 enrollment at about 36,000.
But enrollment projections that were just completed by the state’s consultants have reduced the number to 33,425. As a result, the number of remaining “seats” the state will fund has dropped by about 3,000. The consultants base their projections on birth statistics, enrollment history, charter school enrollment and other data.
The District believes that the reforms undertaken in The Cleveland Plan and an expanding selection of high-quality, innovative schools can slow, or even reverse, the decline.
The proposed plan will be presented to the Board of Education for review on March 11. The District will hold 13 community meetings on the draft plan, starting March 18. The most recent list of community meetings and be found on the CMSD website, www.ClevelandMetroSchools.org.