The Cleveland Heights-University Heights School Board voted to close by the end of the 2012-2013 school year at its regular meeting Tuesday, June 5.
Jeffrey Johnston, director of student services, cited cost and declining enrollment as the primary reasons administrators recommended the board vote to close the school.
The district leases the school, which houses programs for students in fifth through 12th grade with emotional and behavioral needs. The building in University Heights is on the Bellefaire JCB site, which provides behavioral health, education and prevention services for children, adolescents and their families, according to its website.
There are 50 to 55 students in the main school and 25 to 30 in the Intensive Care Unit, or what Johnston called the “locked cottage." Students live and attend classes in the cottage.
Of the about 50 students in the main school, 16 are from districts outside of CH-UH, he said. The school serves CH-UH and surrounding areas such as Shaker Heights, South Euclid, Lyndhurst and Warrensville. Enrollment varies as some students attend Bellefaire for all of their middle school and high school years while others only go for several weeks, months or one year. Fifty-three of the district's staff work there.
Johnston said there were also concerns about the fact students must transition between classes outside of the building and the amount of mental health services available for students “despite tremendous efforts by our staff.”
School Board Vice President Eric Coble asked about the plans for staff and students once it closed.
Johnston said at the meeting that some staff would continue to serve the 20 or so students in the locked cottage.
“Decisions regarding placement of students (in the main building) will be made through the IEP (Individualized Education Program) process in partnership with the parents and guardians,” Johnston said. “Options will include a return to district schools, the Options Program (at the ) or placement in specialized programs such as the Positive Education Program.”
Johnston spoke about the expertise of the staff and said the district must develop a plan for them as well.
“We’ve got to celebrate Bellefaire. We’ve got to celebrate the work these folks have done. We should have a plan for staff, we should have a plan for our students … and we should have a plan for the locked cottage.”