Friday, Jun 22, 2018
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The COSI alternative

IN THE best of all worlds, Toledo COSI would remain a science museum. But now that voters have rejected a nominal property tax levy for the second year in a row, those running the facility in the old Portside building on the Maumee River are preparing to shut down, even as they search for funding to keep the building open.

One alternative, which should not be rejected out of hand, would be to turn the building into a science and math school, with the museum open to the public in the evenings and on weekends.

Jack Ford, the former Toledo mayor who is now a Toledo Public Schools board member, offered that intriguing idea three days after the levy was rejected, this time by fewer than 2,000 votes. The proposed school would attract junior high or high school students interested in science and math. It would operate much like a charter school under the aegis of TPS. For now, this is merely a subject for discussion, but it's a worthwhile one.

Mr. Ford's experience as a member of both the science museum and school boards provided the insight to see that combining the two entities could benefit students. It would be a plus for downtown Toledo too, since it would prevent another building in the city's core from sitting empty.

However, turning COSI into a school isn't foremost on the mind of David Waterman, COSI board chairman. Mr. Waterman, who has been focused on trying to meet the museum's pressing need for funding, correctly warns that it will be a lot harder to start such a school after Dec. 31, when COSI is due to shut down, with its staff dispersed and some exhibits relocated.

But those who have signed on to support Mr. Ford's idea - Mayor Carty Finkbeiner, University of Toledo President Lloyd Jacobs, and the Lucas County commissioners - understand that any worthy venture requires commitment.

Mr. Ford proposes tapping the city, state, and federal governments for financial support for a school. It could work. However, raising the funds to keep COSI a science center would be a lot cheaper, and more widely beneficial, than converting the building into a school.

Dec. 31 is coming fast, but it's still not too late for a workable plan to keep COSI, in some form.

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