Cleveland school board still far from agreement on closing Collinwood High School

Cleveland 1 month ago

CLEVELAND, Ohio – The Cleveland school board came no closer to making a decision Wednesday about closing Collinwood High School and other schools as part of a district-wide consolidation proposal.

Though no vote was expected at the board’s monthly work session — that won’t happen until Nov. 19 — the board heard more details about schools affected by the plan. But even after debating the merits of closing schools for nearly an hour, members were far from consensus.

Just as at the board’s retreat in Geneva-on-the-Lake last week, members were split on whether to shutter poorly attended and costly schools or whether to allow two of the schools on the closure list, Collinwood and the specialized New Tech West High School, to remain open.

They agreed, however, that their decision in two weeks will be difficult.

“We are going to have to keep students first and really keep our emotions out of it,” cautioned board member Wileta Milam.

The closure of Collinwood High and Martin Luther King Jr. High School in Hough, and their proposed merger into Glenville High School, dominated discussion.

Updated and lower enrollment totals for the three schools — 216 for Collinwood, 264 for King and 285 for Glenville — added more fuel to the push to merge them. Collinwood and Glenville high schools each were built for well over 3,000 students.

Board chair Anne Bingham said that with less than 300 students at each school, the schools can’t offer full academic programs and need to be merged.

Board member Lisa Thomas renewed her support for Collinwood, calling for a three-year delay on closing it and giving enrollment a chance to rebound.

“Let’s make it more attractive,” she said.

She added: “If I’m wrong after 3 years, I’m wrong, and we can close the school.”

Her views echoed those of City Councilman Mike Polensek, who accused the board in a letter Monday of undermining East Side neighborhoods like his by closing schools.

“It is time for us to draw the line in the sand and tell them that “enough is enough” and to reinvest in our neighborhoods,” he told the rest of council. “Provide the educational experience our students need to excel and to be productive in society once they leave CMSD. The plan as presented is nothing more than additional stress, relocation, disinvestment and neighborhood abandonment.”

Councilman Anthony Brancatelli, who represents Slavic Village, also wrote to the board urging members to save Washington Park high school, which has gardens and greenhouses to teach environmental and farming lessons in nearby Newburgh Heights.

“Washington Park is at capacity, empty seats are not an issue,” he wrote. “We can bring in additional partners and show that graduates here will have a clear path to employment and advanced educational opportunities.”

The board had little discussion of Washington Park at its retreat and none on Wednesday.

The lone change to the consolidation plan that has a growing consensus is following the lead of other cities and assigning someone — a new hire, an existing employee or someone in a real estate company — to find new uses for any buildings that are closed.

“All you have to do is drive down E 55th Street and see that Wilson School that’s been vacant for 15 years to know that it’s easy to say we’re going to do something and not do it,” Thomas said. “I want to see it in writing.”

The school board will meet 6:30 p.m., Tues., Nov. 19, at East Technical High School, 2439 E. 55th St., to vote on the school consolidation plan. The meeting is open to the public with time for comments.

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