The new Kenmore-Garfield Community Learning Center will be the 34th and potentially the last built by Akron Public Schools — but in a way, it's still a first.

The combined high school in Firestone Park is the first the district designed after adopting its plan to add college and career academies and subsequent pathways of study into each high school.

"This is the first one we've actually designed with the career academies in mind," Superintendent David James said.

The district held a community meeting Wednesday at the merged Kenmore-Garfield High School to review the latest designs for the new building. The plan takes into account eight areas of career study that students will be able to choose, including advanced manufacturing and nursing, said Debra Foulk, the district's executive director for business affairs.

"The academies can dictate the type of spaces you build," she said.

The culinary program, for example, incorporates the design of a full commercial kitchen. The advanced manufacturing program requires heavy machinery and other equipment that needs a dedicated space as well.

Those programs will be available starting next year at the current campus in the Kenmore neighborhood. Starting in 2022, when construction is expected to be completed on the new building, those programs will move into new spaces on the former Garfield High campus in the Firestone Park neighborhood.

James said the building will also be unique because of the addition of collaborative work spaces for students.

Despite the changes, it will still look and feel like a traditional high school, he said.

"The issue is how are we using the space," James said.

The district faced heavy pushback from both the Kenmore and Garfield communities over the merger of the rival schools two years ago. James said that tension has eased somewhat, although a question from the audience Wednesday night homed in on the issue: What will they name the new school, and could Garfield's name go in front of Kenmore, since it will be on the former site of Garfield High?

For now, James said, they are sticking with Kenmore-Garfield CLC until the board makes a decision otherwise — likely with community input.

About 20 people attended the meeting to see the renderings of the new building, presented by construction managers Hammond Construction. Current designs are not finalized, but feature a three-story building totaling 261,000 square feet on just over 10 acres.

The small site means a lack of athletic field space, a sticking point with some members of the crowd. The design features a 50-yard football field, but they couldn't make it any bigger without eating away at too much parking, James said. The current plans allow for only 260 parking spaces.

"We tried to do the best we could," James said.

He said he's exploring turning nearby Kent Middle School, now empty of students and used only for storage, into an athletic complex that would serve Kenmore-Garfield CLC.

For now, he said, the school will continue to use Kenmore Stadium, which has undergone recent upgrades. James said he's also encouraged by a gift announced this week by the Cleveland Browns to install artificial turf at Ellet High.

"If we can get more donations like we did yesterday from the Browns, we'll be in good shape," he said.

 

Contact reporter Jennifer Pignolet at jpignolet@thebeaconjournal.com, at 330-996-3216 or on Twitter @JenPignolet.