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Published: Thursday, 12/6/2001

Waite audience debates plans as Sanders clarifies district's position

Toledo Superintendent Eugene Sanders said he studied his lesson plans again before last night's community forum at Waite High School and rewrote them.

He wanted to make three points more clear to the audience who came to hear about the district's plans for school building renovation and replacement:

  • The series of forums at each high school - tonight's, the last one, is at Scott at 7 o'clock - are the beginning of a conversation with the community about the future of the school buildings. More forums will be scheduled.

  • No formal decisions have been made about the district's 69 classroom buildings, 60 of which would be replaced under a state guideline weighing costs of renovation against replacement.

  • The district will consider the aesthetic, historical, and cultural value of school buildings in its plans.

    “I'm not sure that I, or we, did a good job of communicating that early on,” Dr. Sanders said.

    Many in the audience supported saving Waite High School, calling it an irreplaceable fixture on the east side.

    Gary Gabriel, a 1946 graduate who also attended Navarre Elementary School, said the building is adequate for students.

    “The facility in which I was educated had very little to do with my academic achievement,” Mr. Gabriel said.

    But John Hymore, a junior at Waite, said people like Mr. Gabriel don't understand modern education.

    “Those who attend it now, we see what it's like here and how outdated it is,” young Hymore said. “They think it's more like a historical place for them than a learning place. We've got to focus on the learning.”

    Board member Larry Sykes, one of four who attended the forum, said he hopes to offer community tours of the school buildings next year. “I'd like to show what changes could be made,” he said.

    In order to proceed with the building project, the district will need voter support. A bond levy is expected to be placed on the November general election ballot to raise the local 23 percent share of the estimated $750 million to $800 million project.

    The Ohio School Facilities Commission has about $10.2 billion of largely tobacco settlement money earmarked by the legislature for school buildings. From that fund, the state would fund 77 percent of the Toledo project.

    “This is our golden opportunity. We need to make this happen,” Jim Fortlage, the district's business manager, said. “Our kids are already falling behind because our buildings are falling apart.”

    Tracy Wieczorek, the Waite learning community parent involvement coordinator, said she hopes voters support improving the schools. “When it comes to elementary schools, what's more important: the bricks or the children's education?” she asked. “I think if we can save Waite, people here will support the levy.”

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