ELYRIA — A neighborhood without a neighborhood school.
That’s what residents of Elyria’s south side said Elyria Schools will create if it moves forward with proposed changes to the district’s master plan that will eliminate a planned elementary school for the area. School officials met Saturday to discuss changes as it is looking for cost savings because early figures have put the district potentially millions over budget.
The district is working with a plan to build five schools, but would like to change it to three campus-style schools on the east, west and north parts of the city.
Councilman Marcus Madison, D-5th Ward, said he was unaware the district was proposing to eliminate a planned school for his ward.
“This is the first time I’m hearing about any changes to the master plan that voters approved,” he said in an email Saturday. “I’m waiting for confirmation from Elyria City school officials regarding the suggested changes to the plan. I hope that we can find a solution that continues to build on the positive work to develop the 5th Ward and strengthen the existing support systems for our young scholars.”
Madison called Franklin Elementary School, on 11th Street, a consistent place where residents could rely on for services. Closing and demolishing Franklin after closing Roosevelt Elementary School in 2009 will leave a void in the community, he said.
“I would be interested in knowing how consolidating the schools will meet the needs of some of our most vulnerable members living in the neighborhood, and how that consolidation would extend services and learning opportunities to families who need it the most,” he said.
Residents said they were looking forward to the district rebuilding an elementary school on the former Hamilton school site even though the new school was no longer going to carry the Franklin moniker.
“This community needs to have its own school,” said Kneisha Dunnigan, 29, who lives on 13th Street and works for Save Our Children, a nonprofit that got its start at Asbury United Methodist Church. “As taxpayers, we deserve that just as anyone else. I know I personally have a lot of memories of going to Franklin for school, in the summer time for free meals and with my cousins to play at the playground. It is more than just a school for us.”
Dunnigan said she worries what busing students to Eastern Heights or Westwood, where the proposed campus schools would go in addition to Northwood, would impact parental involvement because many parents on the south side do not have cars.
Brenda Warren, a longtime resident of 10th Street, said the district promised a school to voters who worried a plan for new schools would leave out the south side.
“We are very devastated to hear this is even being proposed,” she said. “We were promised at several different meetings that we would get a school predicated on Head Start and the library leaving Hamilton (school). This is very devastating to our community and very alarming to me. It brings up some concerns about integrity and doing what they promised to do.”
While the majority of voters in the city said yes in November 2016 to the 3.86-mill, 35-year bond issue, the 5th Ward showed the most support in the city, with nearly 70 percent of voters casting a ballot favoring the school issue.
“We stood up and supported the school levy,” Warren said. “Our community turned out for the levy based on the promise that we would have an elementary school. It was devastating to our community to lose our Head Start program, but we were encouraged to know there would be an elementary school in our community. Now, we won’t have either service.”
Some residents reacted positively to the news, calling the change of course sensible considering the circumstances.
“It makes sense to me,” said Rose Gibson in a social media post. “Sometimes our wishes and wants have to be prioritized. It might not be exactly what we initially voted for, but it is still new schools for everyone.”
Still, Karryn Capers, a former Head Start teacher who worked at the Hamilton school site and at one time Franklin Elementary School when there was a Head Start extension program, said the district should maintain a strong connection to the south side.
“When you take the kids out, the neighborhood becomes a little bit different,” she said. “You are taking people out of their circle and their neighborhood. It makes all the difference.”
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