PARMA, Ohio — The Parma City School Board voted Thursday on a school consolidation plan that will close three schools, including Parma Senior High School.
The decision to close the high school and two elementary schools comes as the district is facing a $24 million deficit projected by 2026 and felt it best to tackle it through consolidation.
“I know this is an extremely hard decision, and it's going to be disappointing one way or the other,” said board president Steve Vaughn.
Parma Park Elementary, Renwood Elementary and Parma Senior High School will close at the end of the 2022-23 school year.
The move will leave the district with six elementary, three middle and two high schools.
Parma Senior High will be demolished with the site being the future home of a new high school. That school will be built once the money is raised—a concern Michael Kowal, a Parma Senior grad and father of four shared with News 5.
“That was our biggest concern they're voting to demolish a school and they don't have the money to build a new one, so the land is just going to sit vacant because each bond issue that they brought forward over the past few years, it just progressively got voted down I know even more and more,” he said.
Board member Mark Ruda echoed Kowal’s concerns.
"We not only don't have the money to do it, we haven't even asked the people for the money to do it, and on top of that, we haven't even decided if we're going to ask the people for the money to do this, so we have no money to rebuild this building so if we can't get the money to do it, this place just becomes a park," Ruda said.
Friday, PCSD Superintendent Charles Smialek told News 5 the move was necessary to accommodate planning and savings. He estimates eliminating the three schools will cut about $3.15 million in operating costs.
“We cannot afford to run three high schools. So our conversation has been, as we consolidate, what schools made the most sense in terms of what could be closed. And because we decided at West 54th and Longwood would be the future one high school, it makes sense to get that property ready for what we hope will be the best high school in Ohio,” Smialek said.
On March 31, the Board of Education approved a master plan to eventually consolidate the district to 4 elementary schools, 2 middle schools and 1 high school. The single senior high school is planned for the current site of Parma Senior High and could cost between $3.8 and $3.9 million.
The superintendent explained a taxpayer money would likely be necessary to fund the demolition and construction of a new school. The district is considering introducing a 3.7 mill bond issue to help cover costs, which Smialek said would cost a homeowner of a $100,000 about $11 monthly.
The district has not successfully passed a levy since 2011 and some parents believe the proposal may be doomed already.
“It’s going to be a tough sell, it really is. A lot of people feel really strongly that for the last couple of decades money has been exceptionally poorly managed in our school system,” said Brett Mabin, who graduated from Parma Senior High and has children at Renwood Elementary and Shiloh Middle School.
Smialek believes the bond issue will pass where others have failed with messaging from the district about the value of a new school to meet students' needs.
“I think we have a very compelling case. We can create a truly unique institution in Northeast Ohio.” he said.
Watch the full board meeting in the embedded Facebook post below:
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