Akron Public Schools officials are exploring new options for moving forward with the district’s construction project.
Last week, during a joint meeting of the Akron Board of Education and Akron City Council, Superintendent David James presented five options for configuring the district to incorporate one new high school that could be built using state funding. The city and board have partnered with the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission since 2003 to renovate and construct school buildings throughout the district
On Monday, Bruce Alexander, the school board president, announced during a joint review board meeting (a collection of school board and city officials) that after evaluating the five options and receiving input during last week’s meeting, the board has agreed to look at other ideas.
“We’re open and willing to explore all feasible options,” Alexander said. “That could mean adding options, scrapping options that have been presented or amending those options.”
Whatever is done, school and city officials are on a tight timeline to make a decision about constructing one last high school in the city — or they could risk losing $25 million in state funding that is now available. Based on current state enrollment projections, that money can only be used toward the construction of a new high school for 1,254 students.
The project is funded in part by a 0.25 percent increase to the city income tax that voters approved in 2003, with the state paying 59 percent toward construction and renovations of school district buildings.
James said the district has already submitted requested information to the state for another enrollment projection, which could result in the state adjusting its contribution or taking its money off the table completely. He said that, despite looking at new options, city and school officials need to make a decision about constructing a new high school by the end of July. The city would then need to sell bonds in August to match the state dollars. With a projected $11 million carryover, $61 million could be available for the final phase of the construction project.
Since the construction project began, two of the district’s seven high schools — East and Buchtel — have been constructed and renovated. Two — Firestone (which is slated to open this fall) and Ellet — are in progress. No plans have been made for Garfield, Kenmore and North.
All five options presented last week included the building of a new Garfield High School and closing Kenmore and North. In terms of the city’s seven current high schools, the options were:
•?Option 1: Close Kenmore and North. Combine Buchtel and Kenmore. North Bio-Med Academy moves to Jennings (middle school). East, Ellet and Firestone stay the same.
•?Option 2: Close Kenmore and North. Combine Firestone and Buchtel. Buchtel becomes a middle school and offers high school career tech programs. Kenmore moves to Innes (middle school). Ellet, East and Garfield stay the same.
•?Option 3: Close Kenmore and North. Combine Firestone and Buchtel. Buchtel becomes a middle school and offers high school career tech programs. Kenmore moves to Innes. Combine East and North Bio-Med Academy. Ellet and Garfield stay the same.
•?Option 4: Close Kenmore and North. Combine Buchtel and Kenmore. Combine East and North Bio-Med Academy. Ellet, Firestone and Garfield stay the same.
•?Option 5: Close Kenmore and North. Combine East and North Bio-Med Academy. Combine Garfield and Kenmore. Buchtel, Ellet and Firestone stay the same.
In other business, the joint review board recommended that the school board and City Council approve the appointments of 10 nominees to the joint board of review citizens monitoring committee. The committee — a citizens group that was formed in 2003 to meet monthly through 2010 to review all expenditures and evaluate any that exceeded estimated costs by at least 10 percent — includes five members nominated by the city and five nominated by the school board.
Committee members approved by the school board on Monday were Julie Ann Sweet–Buntin, Ed Bollinger, Valerie McKitrick, Bob Conley and Steve Milkovich. Bollinger and Sweet-Buntin are former members of the committee.
On the city’s slate of committee members were Ed Buerhle, Connie Krauss, Terry Albanese, Eufrancia Lash and Mark Douglas. Krauss and Buerhle are former members.
Colette Jenkins can be reached at 330-996-3731 or firstname.lastname@example.org. She can be followed at www.twitter.com/ColetteMJenkins.