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Published: Thursday, 12/6/2001

Razing Scott High not a TPS option, supporters say

BY SANDRA SVOBODA
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Sophomores Tammie Sanders, 16, Shontel Piggee, 17, and Ebony Thurmond, 16, from left, have lunch in the cafeteria that was added on to Scott High School two years ago. Sophomores Tammie Sanders, 16, Shontel Piggee, 17, and Ebony Thurmond, 16, from left, have lunch in the cafeteria that was added on to Scott High School two years ago.
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(Editor's Note: This is one 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. The stories coincide with public forums being held in each feeder area to gather citizen input.)

Its location in the Old West End and place in the community's collective heart could mean Scott High School likely will be remodeled instead of replaced in the district's proposed rebuilding project.

“It's the oldest high school in the city and the alumni base is so wide and diverse. People have connection to the school,” said Principal Johnny Hutton.

Built in 1911, the four-story Scott building and its sweeping campus are in one of the city's three historic districts.

“I just like looking at it from the outside,” said Senior Tyler Morgan. “This is the Mecca of the Old West End. There's a lot of history.”

Although the building is not on the National Register of Historic Places, its location in the recognized area makes it a little trickier to tear it down or change its fa ade.

Such construction would require a “certificate of appropriateness” from the Old West End Historic District Commission, said Bill Homka, a Toledo-Lucas County planning commissions principal planner and staff member to the historic commissions.

“I couldn't imagine them making any recommendation to allow demolition of that school,” he said.

The Ohio School Facilities Commission has hundreds of millions of dollars available to rebuild and upgrade Toledo Public Schools if the district puts up 23 percent of the project cost.

A bond levy is planned for November to raise the amount.

But before costs are finalized and exact additional taxes for Toledo homeowners are calculated, the district must complete a master building plan for its 69 classroom buildings.

A state assessment found all schools in the Scott area except the newly remodeled Old West End Academy did not meet the criteria for renovation. The cost of repairs exceeds two-thirds the cost of replacing the buildings. “That's the rule of thumb,” said Rick Savors, spokesman for the state commission.

Scott's remodeling costs were estimated at 72 percent of its replacement cost.

“That would be over the two-thirds rule. Still, if there's good cause to keep the building, and the district wants to keep the building, we'd continue to fund the cost of renovations up to the [replacement cost],” Mr. Savors said. “If you've got a historic building or a community vested building, you're going to want to take a good look at it.”

Residents of the Scott area promise to help the district with that view. A community forum is planned for 7 tonight at the high school, the seventh and final the district has held in each learning community to formally present its proposed options for all the schools under the commission effort.

Delbra Blackshear, the parent-teacher organization president at Nathan Hale Elementary School, said she'd be at the forum and any future opportunity she has to give her input.

“I just hope the community comes together and truly, truly, truly holds the board of education responsible for this kind of money,” she said.

In the Scott area, the district is proposing remodeling or replacing the high school, replacing or remodeling Robinson Junior High School, and adding a new middle school to the area. Under the plans, sixth graders would join seventh and eighth graders at middle schools throughout the district.

For the elementary schools in the Scott area, the district proposes closing the Cherry Annex, Fulton, Warren, and Washington Kindergarten under both options to be presented tonight. Under one plan, Glenwood would be rebuilt, while it is closed under the other.

Cherry, King, Lincoln, and Hale elementaries would be rebuilt under both options and would collectively enroll all the students from the area. The Old West End Academy, housed in the former Old West End Junior High School, would receive further upgrades.

Enrollments at the area's elementary schools currently range from about 230 to 700. The new school configuration would even that out between the rebuilt schools.

Stan Woody, the Scott school improvement leader, said the changes are more drastic than in some learning communities because of the high cost of repairing or replacing the buildings.

“Things are old and they continue to break down and need repair,” he said.

Problems with physical facilities can detract from student learning, Mr. Woody said. “The main thing kids should be able to do is focus on learning and not worry about whether it's too cold or when a roof is leaking or paint is peeling. The staff should be able to focus on learning without these other problems,” he said.



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