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Akron Public Schools to consider facility changes within the district

Akron Public Schools is currently exploring four options to close, relocate and even add schools. But Chief Operations Officer Steve Thompson says only one can be approved.
Akron Public Schools
Posted at 6:00 AM, Mar 15, 2023

AKRON, Ohio — Akron Public Schools is currently exploring four options to close, relocate and even add schools. But Chief Operations Officer Steve Thompson says only one can be approved.

“It's an incredibly difficult process. It's a painful process because difficult decisions have to be made,” Thompson said.

Thompson said the board worked with people in the community and administrators over the last 18 months to come up with options I, I-B, II and III.

“Students are going to going to be out of buildings that are in a state of disrepair and be in more modern facilities, which I think enhances our desire to attain excellence through equity across our district,” Thompson said.

Within option I, the plan is estimated to cost $140 million and will include eight projects, such as closing Firestone Park Elementary and the Ott Building, along with constructing a New North High School and Kenmore School for grades K through 8.

Our partners at the Akron Beacon Journal compiled the list below:

  • Close Firestone Park Elementary and the Ott Building in June 2024.
  • Relocate Pfeiffer Elementary and Miller South by June 2025.
  • Construct a new North High, grades 9-12, to be completed by August 2027.
  • Redistrict a portion of the North cluster by June 2024.
  • Move all East cluster sixth grade students to East CLC by June 2023.
  • Construct a new Kenmore School for grades K-8, which would hold Miller South, STEM Middle School and Pfeiffer Elementary students beginning in August 2025.
  • Open new preschool programs in community learning center elementary buildings where space available by August 2026.
  • Construct a new athletic complex on the former Kent middle campus, or Kenmore campus, including a turf football/soccer stadium, baseball field, softball field and a practice field, in a possible city/district collaboration.

Option I-B is similar to Option I except the construction of a New North High School will not be completed until August 2030 and the total project’s cost would be $78 million.

Option II has nine total projects that will include creating a New North Campus to serve more than just high school students. But Thompson said the $125 million plan will not include a new building in Kenmore, which some say would stall moving the community forward after facing a number of school closures.

“There would be some that feel there's been disproportionate closures there,” said Thompson.

The Akron Beacon Journal lists the rest of the projects included in this option:

  • Close Firestone Park Pfeiffer Elementary schools and relocate Miller South by June 2024.
  • Close the Ott building by June 2023.
  • Construct a new North campus, grades 6-12, to be completed August 2027.
  • Transition Jennings CLC middle school to an elementary school by August 2027.
  • Relocate Miller South to either Garfield CLC or Buchtel CLC by August 2024.
  • Move all East cluster sixth grade students to East CLC by June 2023.
  • Renovate the Morley building to house STEM High school by August 2024.
  • Open new preschool programs in CLC elementary buildings where space is available by August 2026.
  • Construction of new athletic campus at Kent middle or Kenmore campus

Option III, known as the money-saving option, would cost the district $15 million. It would create even more staffing reductions due to several elementary school closures. This plan also doesn’t include a new building in Kenmore.

“The board at this point is just reviewing all four of those options. They haven't made any decisions about what they're going to do,” Thompson said.

The Akron Beacon Journal lists the rest of the projects included in this option:

  • Close Ott building by June 2023.
  • Close Firestone Park and Pfeiffer Elementary schools and the Stewart Early Learning Program building by June 2024.
  • Relocate Miller South by June 2024.
  • Close Essex Early Learning Program building by June 2025.
  • Construct a new North 6-12 campus by August 2030.
  • Repurpose two existing elementary CLC buildings by August 2024 to house Miller South and STEM Middle.
  • Convert National Inventors Hall of Fame STEM middle school to a high school.
  • Redistrict a portion of the North cluster by June 2024.
  • Move all East cluster sixth grade students to East CLC by June 2023.
  • Open new preschool programs in CLC elementary buildings by August 2026.
  • Construct a new athletic complex on the former Kent Middle campus or Kenmore campus by August 2027.
  • Transfer ownership of former Kenmore High to the city of Akron to repurpose as city leaders deem appropriate.

Depending on which plan is selected, the district plans to loan money from a funding source known as certificates of participation, use federal stimulus dollars and apply for grants.

The district says they’re also seeking a bond issue.

School administrators say it’s been more than a decade since they last asked for voters' help, so they’re hopeful people like Aidan Grass will vote yes.

“If the kids see that they’re in a dilapidated school or their school doesn’t get enough funding, they feel like they’re not worth it or anything like that, and I think if people are paying attention to them and giving them the resources, they need, they feel better about themselves,” Grass said.

Other people who News 5's Remi Murrey spoke to off-camera told her their support would depend on how much is being asked and where the new schools would be placed.

Thompson says the board wants to make a decision by March 27.

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