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Superintendent: New building plan 'mindful of history'

  • 080416-ELYRIASCHOOLS-KB02

    Paul Rigda answers questions from Elyria residents during a community session held at Westwood Middle School to discuss the pre-K-8 schools and an upcoming ballot issue to replace Elyria's aging and deteriorated schools throughout the community.

    KRISTIN BAUER | CHRONICLE

  • 080416-ELYRIASCHOOLS-KB01

    Elyria superintendent Tom Jama speaks during a community session held at Westwood Middle School to discuss the pre-K-8 schools and an upcoming ballot issue to replace Elyria's aging and deteriorated schools throughout the community.

    KRISTIN BAUER | CHRONICLE

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ELYRIA TWP. — With the prospect of building new elementary and middle schools on the horizon in Elyria, residents have questions about how the district plans to get students to the fewer number of schools proposed in the master plan and the future of the abandoned buildings.

Thursday’s public forum at Westwood Middle School brought out a number of residents who questioned the transportation and demolition components of the proposed building plan.

080416-ELYRIASCHOOLS-KB01

Elyria superintendent Tom Jama speaks during a community session held at Westwood Middle School to discuss the pre-K-8 schools and an upcoming ballot issue to replace Elyria's aging and deteriorated schools throughout the community.

KRISTIN BAUER | CHRONICLE Enlarge

“I’m concerned we are going to flush Elyria’s history down the drain,” said a resident, who identified herself as a mother in the district. “I was overjoyed when the Washington Building was incorporated into the new high school design.”

The Washington Building was built in 1894 and is made of stone quarried on West 16th Street. When the district was in the process of rebuilding Elyria High, the plan became to renovate the Washington Building and expand the EHS campus by acquiring nearby properties.

The district’s oldest schools are McKinley Elementary, built in 1907, and Ely Elementary, built in 1923.

Superintendent Tom Jama said the design of the new schools will pay homage to the older buildings with historic elements. But there are no plans to save McKinley, Ely or any other school, aside from Westwood, where the administrators are moving.

The plan is to abate and demolish all the old schools, including the former Elyria West High School now used as the district’s central offices.

“The buildings are not going to be abandoned eyesores,” Jama said after fielding a question from a mother about what would happen to Windsor Elementary when the district builds a new school on Abbe Road.

The master plan calls for Elyria to reduce its footprint from 11 to five schools.

This includes one preschool-through-grade eight campus at the Pioneer Field site on Abbe Road; one kindergarten-through-grade eight campus on the site of the existing Eastern Heights Middle School on Garford Avenue; one kindergarten-through-grade eight campus on the site of the existing Crestwood School/ former Elyria West in Elyria Township; one kindergarten-through-grade four elementary school on the site of the existing Ely Elementary School on Gulf Road; and one kindergarten-through-grade four elementary school at the existing Hamilton School site on Middle Avenue.

The plan also includes a new stadium to replace Ely Stadium.

The project has a total price tag of nearly $140 million. Elyria voters are being asked to put up about $60 million in local funds through the bond issue, which if approved, would cost the owner of a $100,000 home value about $11 per month.

The state will pay $80 million, which is 67 percent of the project costs.

080416-ELYRIASCHOOLS-KB02

Paul Rigda answers questions from Elyria residents during a community session held at Westwood Middle School to discuss the pre-K-8 schools and an upcoming ballot issue to replace Elyria's aging and deteriorated schools throughout the community.

KRISTIN BAUER | CHRONICLE Enlarge

Former Superintendent Paul Rigda said building on land the district already owns is keeping the cost down. The state will not pay for land acquisition, and the district does not want the expenses of repeatedly moving students around during construction.

The state is kicking in money for demolition, which will save the district money on maintenance to not have so many old buildings in its portfolio.

However, fewer neighborhood schools will increase the transportation concerns of parents, said one mother.

Jama said even without the building project, the district struggles with transportation.

He said it continues to be the No. 1 concern expressed by parents. He knows that will not change if the district builds new schools.

“Transportation is going to stay my priority because it’s the priority of our parents,” he said.

The district first addressed busing early this year when it changed the distance cutoff for bus transportation, reducing it from students living two miles away from their neighborhood schools to students who live 1.5 miles away.

Later this month, the circle will tighten a little more to 1.25 miles and put hundreds more students on the bus.

Contact Lisa Roberson at 329-7121 or lroberson@chroniclet.com. Follow her on Twitter @LisaRobersonCT.



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