A citizens committee has called for renovating or replacing all buildings in the district and hiring an expert to devise a plan, in a presentation made to the Cleveland Heights-University Heights School Board.
The CHUH City School District Citizens Facilities Committee presented a summary of its nearly yearlong study of the schools to the board July 12 at .
About 50 school board and city council members, administrators, parents, teachers and others comprised the committee, which was separated into four subcommittees — facilities, educational, facilities options and finance — to focus on specific aspects of the schools. About half were present for this final meeting.
The district began examining the structural condition of its schools last year when the Ohio School Facilities Commission concluded that the buildings were antiquated and required a major overhaul. The committee was formed and had its first meeting in September 2010, and the school .
They shared good and bad news. Despite the outdated facilities, teachers are utilizing modern educational techniques. They aren’t lecturing in the front of the class — they’re working with small groups to target student needs and using typically ignored spaces like hallways as learning centers. And the buildings are structurally sound.
But most schools require major updates to the heating, cooling, electric and plumbing systems. If school officials do nothing, which according to the reports is not an option, the most basic renovations would cost some $40 million, according to the Facilities Options Subcommittee findings.
"Additions to the nine buildings built prior to 1970 undermine their architectural and physical integrity, often reduce natural light and are the source of many facilities problems," the committee wrote in its presentation. "They create inefficient spaces and operating systems, maintenance challenges and an incoherent maze of pipes, wiring and controls …"
Among several final recommendations from the subcommittees, one major suggestion included renovating or replacing all buildings in the district.
The committee suggested that the district hire experts to devise details about how to replace or renovate all CHUH facilities based on the committee's findings, and to continue to hold public meetings to receive input from the community.
"The recommendations of the committee will be used to craft an RFQ to use in the selection of an architectural firm. The selected architectural firm will work with the district to help craft a specific plan to present to the Board of Education in March 2012," said Superintendent Douglas Heuer in an email. "I was not expecting the committee to make any specific management decisions such as the reconfiguration of schools."
Though no specific buildings were singled out, the committee made it clear that renovating the 11 buildings in the district would not be the best option, as it would cost approximately $226 million.
Closing schools would bring the cost to renovate facilities down to about $170 million or $180 million, according to the Facilities Options Subcommittee. The subcommittee emphasized the importance of preserving closed schools and reusing the buildings during its last report, like what has happened with .
And the committee pointed out the schools' historic gems, like the and some auditoriums in the schools.
The committee said the new and updated facilities should last for 50 or more years, and be able to adapt to the educational needs of the future.
An independent expert said the district could raise up to $166 million with a voted bond to pay for these updates. But first, the district must focus on passing the .
The district can't wait for long, however, as it will risk falling behind nearby districts.
"Inaction means neighboring districts will field newer, more efficient buildings. Cleveland, East Cleveland, Euclid and Lakewood have major projects completed or underway," the committee wrote in its presentation. "Mayfield and Beachwood have large renovation projects in motion. South Euclid has newer buildings, and Shaker has always maintained their physical plant."
Heuer said the goal is to get an issue to pay for the project on the 2012 ballot, as presidential election years have higher voter turnout and are good years to present school issues to voters.
"I’m encouraged by the recommendations of the committee and thank them for all of the time and energy that was put into this effort," Heuer said.
To see the full presentation from the committee, visit the CHUH district website.