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Councilman, community members worry Collinwood HS will share fate of other shuttered schools

Posted at 5:21 PM, Oct 28, 2019
and last updated 2019-10-28 23:20:19-04

CLEVELAND — Cleveland City Councilmen Mike Polensek and Kevin Conwell both oppose a proposed plan by the Cleveland Metropolitan School District to close Collinwood High School and Martin Luther King High School and integrate the student populations with Glenville High School. In addition to potential impact on the local economy and social fabric of the surrounding neighborhoods, Councilman Conwell expressed concern about the school district’s plan on what to do with the historic buildings.

On Monday night, CMSD leaders, including CEO Eric Gordon, will host a community meeting at Glenville High School in order to explain the enrollment shortfalls, academic changes and possible uses for the buildings in the future.

Collinwood High school has been in operation for 93 years and was designed to accommodate more than 3,000 students. However, as Cleveland’s population has continued to contract in recent decades, the student population at Collinwood is less than one tenth of what it was in the 1960s. MLK High School has roughly 350 students in a building designed for 1,800.

While Conwell would prefer that CMSD maintain the status quo, he said the school district would need to be responsible in how it goes about integrating the three student bodies.

“The reality is we live through our children,” Conwell said. “That’s what I’m fighting for. We have to have safe routes to school. We’ve got to make sure these children work together for the good of the whole.”

Councilmen Conwell and Polensek also said the closure of Collinwood High School would sound the death knell for several preschools in the neighborhood.

Just nine years ago, CMSD officials approved the demolition of 26 buildings, including more than a dozen former schools. Among the schools to eventually be demolished was the former Willson Junior High School, located on East 55th between Superior and Payne. The century-old, three-story building with its signature yellow brick was shuttered in 2005. In the years since its unceremonious end, vandals and graffiti artists have treated the Cleveland landmark as their own personal canvas.

“I’m broken hearted to see this school go like this,” said Rayshaun Green, a graduate of Willson Junior High. “I have a lot of memories at this school. A lot of my family went to this school. “There was a basketball area and there were swing sets over here. Everything is gone now.”

Conwell said he worries Collinwood High School would also have the same fate as Willson. It is imperative for CMSD to have a concrete plan for the building before closing the school, he said.

“Blight is not good. [CEO Eric Gordon] needs to sit down and talk with the residents to find out what they want and what they need. [CMSD] needs to mothball the buildings and protect them so blight won’t contribute to any crime or anything like that," Conwell said.

The community meeting regarding the proposed integration plan will be held from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. at Glenville High School.

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