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CMSD considering closing schools due to low student enrollment, dwindling population

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Posted at 12:50 PM, Oct 18, 2019
and last updated 2019-10-19 08:24:17-04

CLEVELAND — Cleveland's declining population and empty seats in classrooms across the city have Cleveland Metropolitan School District officials considering the closure of nearly a dozen schools across the area.

According to CMSD CEO Eric Gordon's plan, the number of unfilled seats in classrooms across the district has "made it hard to maintain quality academic programs across the system without costly subsidies."

Gordon said the decision was not an easy one to make.

"People have a fierce pride in this community for the school they went to and graduated from," Gordon said.

Gordon's solution, which still needs the school board's approval, is to close certain schools, combine others and renovate buildings still worth maintaining.

When it comes to high schools, the plan calls for Glenville, Collinwood, and Martin Luther King Jr. to be consolidated into a combined Glenville campus.

Gordon said when Collinwood High School opened in 1926, it was designed to serve 4,000 students. He said currently, only 300 students attend the campus.

"We had to make a really difficult decision that we can serve those 300 kids today much better on a consolidated campus which we’re proposing at Glenville," Gordon said.

Willie Hines attended Collinwood High School until 2008 and was disappointed to learn of the possible closure of his alma mater.

"I heard that they were going to transfer everyone to Glenville and I was just shocked and surprised," Hines said, "Because Glenville and Collinwood have been a rival school, especially on the football, for a long time now."

Kyle Earley is a pastor at City of God and hopes the district will reconsider its decision to merge the campuses.

"When you talk about merging Collinwood with Glenville and possibly MLK, that’s going to be tough for students," Earley said. "I know in talking to people in the community, there’s some possible concerns about violence that may happen."

Earley said it's hard for him to imagine the community without students attending the campus.

"This is a historical landmark. This school has been in this community for decades and lifetimes," Earley said, "So when you’re talking about the education of our children, we build family here."

According to district estimates, Cleveland's East Side is forecasted to see a decline in the student population over the next few years.

The plan states that the number of students on the East Side is currently "well below desired enrollment."

By the 2022-2023 school year, there would be more than 7,100 open seats in the district's East Side, according to the plan.

On the West Side, there would be more than 700 open seats by the 2022-2023 school year.

The plan states that currently, 40% of high school seats across the district are currently empty. To have the schools at desired capacity, the district would need to operate between 12 to 17 fewer high school programs than currently done today.

For high schools in the district, the plan seeks to:

  • Bring together high quality, high demand programming into fewer buildings to increase access and opportunity for more students.
  • Phase-out the academic programs and buildings of lower-performing schools with low enrollment in older buildings.
  • Construct new (buildings) to meet future enrollment demand in the region.

One of the issues the district faces is the upkeep and repair of aging buildings. Collinwood and MLK Jr. currently face "significant maintenance challenges," according to the plan.

Glenville was chosen as the merger site due to its central location as well as being in the best condition between the three schools.

The plan calls for the consolidation of East Tech, Jane Adams and Washington Park into East Tech's campus while revitalizing school curriculum and programming. It also calls for the closure of the Jane Adams building. Washington Park would then be turned into a district-wide outdoor education facility.

The plan states that the district would open the new John F. Kennedy campus and have it ready for the 2020-2021 school year. Students currently at Whitney Young would be moved out of the portable classrooms housed there and sent to the JFK campus.

Part of the plan is to also phase out the Design Lab program starting next school year and close the facility.

A summary of the high school changes is listed below:

  • MLK Jr., Glenville, and Collinwood would merge into the Glenville campus.
  • East Tech would become the consolidated campus for New Tech East, East Tech, Washington Park and Jane Addams
  • New Tech West and Design Lab would be phased out.
  • A new campus would be built to serve Lincoln West Global Studies and Lincoln West Science and Health programs.

Cleveland Councilman Basheer Jones, who graduated from MLK Jr. in 2002, issued the following statement:

“It breaks my heart that this will be the last graduation class from MLK.” Councilman Jones said. “But I have faith that these plans will help to bring positive growth and learning to our students. MLK High School has been an anchor in the Hough neighborhood for generations. My sincere hope is to see the end of population losses in our East Side neighborhoods and a new wave of residents moving in. Then MLK will rise again.”

A summary of the K-8 changes are listed below:

  • Willow, Iowa-Maple, Michael R. White and Case would close.
  • Kenneth Clement and Valley View Boys Leadership Academies would be consolidated.
  • Dike School of the Arts and Bolton would be consolidated.
  • Clark and Walson would be consolidated and placed in a new building.
  • Denison and Charles A. Mooney would be consolidated with a new building.
  • Joseph M. Gallagher would be renovated.
  • Marion C. Seltzer would get a new building.
  • Douglas MacArthur Girls Leadership Academy would get a new building.
CMSD recommendations
CMSD's summary of high school and K-8 recommendations.

Gordon's plan will be presented to the public through a series of regional meetings starting Saturday. The plan will be submitted to the school board for final consideration in mid-November.

Click here to view the entire district plan.

Here is a list of dates, times and locations of the upcoming meetings:

Saturday, Oct. 19
10:00 a.m. to Noon
Jane Addams Business Career Center, 2373 E 30th St. 44115

Saturday, Oct. 19
1:30 to 3:30 p.m.
James Ford Rhodes Campus, 5100 Biddulph Ave. 44144

Monday, Oct. 21
6 to 8:30 p.m.
JFK Campus, 17100 Harvard Ave. 44128

Monday, Oct. 28
5 to 7 p.m.
Glenville High School, 650 East 113th St. 44108

Tuesday, Oct. 29
6 to 8 p.m.
Garrett Morgan High School, 4016 Woodbine Ave. 44113

Wednesday, Oct. 30
6 to 8 p.m.
Campus International High School, 3100 Chester Ave. 44114

RELATED: CMSD recommendation plan would close four schools, renovate or build five new ones