(Editor's Note: This is the first of a series of stories looking at each of the Toledo Public Schools' seven feeder areas and a state consultant's suggested options for the future of school buildings in those areas.)
With four additions built onto the original building, students at DeVeaux Junior High can't get from some parts of the second floor to others without going down one set of stairs, into another section of the building, and then up another set of stairs.
The roughly 1,100 students don't fit in the gym or the auditorium in fewer than four shifts. If you add parents to the audience, any assembly has to be held at another school.
Between class periods, students bump into one another in the hallways as they struggle to make it to their next class in five minutes.
But the problems aren't all due to poor original design or administrative decisions. The school in 1929 was built as a K-8 elementary school when students didn't change rooms for each subject.
As families continue to choose to locate in the suburban West Toledo area and with Start High School's reputation for good test scores, more students attend the schools in the Start feeder pattern than other parts of the Toledo city school district. Adding to the crowding is that DeVeaux took in some of the students when Old West End Junior High School was closed in 2000.
“We're bigger than most of the high schools around here,” said DeVeaux Principal John Mann. “This building, I think we get the maximum use out of it. You make due with what you have. It's just not well-suited for us.”
A new DeVeaux could be on the way. If the district becomes eligible for hundreds of millions of dollars from the Ohio School Facilities Commission, one suggested option calls for knocking down the two-story building, constructing a school, and adding sixth grade to the enrollment.
The new DeVeaux would handle the 1,400 students projected to be attending by mid-decade or - under another option - split the duties with a second, new middle school. Each school would have enrollment of about 700 students, according to planners.
That's only part of the far-reaching construction overhaul suggested for the Start learning community. Other plans call for renovating or rebuilding Start High School and replacing all seven elementary schools.
District officials will present the options to the community at 7 tonight in a forum in Start High School, 1900 Tremainsville Rd. It is the first of seven forums planned around the city in each of the district's high school feeder areas.
“The biggest overall issue there is DeVeaux is very overcrowded and we want to move to middle schools,” said TPS board of education President Peter Silverman. “The state recommends that Start be replaced rather than renovated. We're going to see what the community wants. We're going to tell them what a replacement school would be like and what a renovated school would be like.”
Maryann Gable, a parent of a daughter at DeVeaux and a son at Start, said the schools are so crowded that immediate action is needed.
“I don't know if it would be feasible for us to wait for the schools to be rebuilt that are in such poor shape. I think that something needs to be done in a more timely manner,” Ms. Gable said. “That's going to take years and years and years. I don't know that the school system has that long. Too many students will suffer between now and when that will happen.”
Start Principal Michael Kedzierski said he hopes any plans include more rooms suited for modern high school classes. Six teachers travel between rooms on carts because they don't have regular classrooms. Other teachers are teaching in rooms that weren't built as classrooms. Storage is inadequate, and the gym has space for only two basketball courts.
“Things obviously need to be improved and changed and updated and that hasn't been done,” Mr. Kedzierski said.
Jim Vail, president of UpStarts, the academic boosters at the high school, has two daughters who graduated from Start and a third is a senior there.
He said the school administrators might need to add redistricting to its list of options for the Start community.
“That feeder patterns needs to be looked at and see if there can be adjustments,” he said. “They really need to look at the whole numbers situation in districting of students.”
He plans to attend tonight's forum. His fourth daughter is an eighth grader at DeVeaux.
“I certainly believe there need to be improvements in the physical plants,” he said. “But I'm not sure exactly which is best, repairs or replacement.”