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Published: Friday, 3/14/2003

Help save school buildings, plan commission is urged

A member of Toledo's Historic District Commission said his group will fight hard to save historically significant schools from the wrecking ball under Toledo Public Schools' $821 million reconstruction effort.

The Rev. Paul Kwiatkowski, vice chairman of the commission, yesterday urged the Toledo Plan Commission to pressure the Toledo Board of Education to reopen its review of school demolition.

He said the Columbus Public Schools did such a review and ended up preserving 11 more schools from destruction.

The school district is scheduled to begin school replacement in 2004.

“The schools are civic anchors,” Father Kwiatkowski said. “We're very much concerned that if we lose those, we'll lose [the neighborhoods] as well.”

He said if the school board would move up the renovation of Scott and Waite high schools to the beginning of the 12-year program, it would show the board and the public that it's possible to have a functional renovated school.

“The predominant mentality of the school board is to tear everything down and start fresh,” Father Kwiatkowski said.

He received qualified support from the five-member commission, which agreed to bring up the issue in a meeting with school district officials.

However, three plan commission members stressed that educational needs of children would have priority over historic preservation.

Peter Silverman, president of the Toledo Board of Education, said the board will not change its schedule to conduct a new round of architectural reviews.

Instead, Mr. Silverman said, the school board will allow each school community to try to reach its own consensus.

“If the people in the neighborhood want to renovate rather than rebuild, we're willing to consider that,” Mr. Silverman said.

The schools the historic district commission wants to save are Fulton, Franklin, Lincoln, Arlington, and Old Orchard elementary schools; Robinson and Jones junior high schools; Woodward and Libbey high schools; the Jefferson Center and Whitney Adult Education Center.

The commission also said it wants to save some elements of Birmingham, East Side Central, Edgewater, Cherry Annex, and Garfield elementary schools.

The schools were pulled from a survey of architecturally and historically significant schools commissioned by the board of education before last year's levy election.

Toledo voters last year approved a 4.99-mill property-tax levy that will bring $614 million from the state to fund the $821 million construction project. The money will build 57 school buildings and renovate seven others over 12 years.

The presentation yesterday were made as the city prepares for a massive amount of work responding to the city school district's ambitious building plan.

The project is expected to involve city government because the city is likely to be asked to trade or sell city-owned land, including parks, for new schools. City officials also will have to approve rezoning applications and site plans for the new and renovated schools.

The plan commission also:

w Approved rezoning 802 North Huron St. from residential to commercial. A buyer plans to convert the one-time St. John's College building to a salon and day spa.

w Approved the site plan review for an International House of Pancakes restaurant at 4045 Talmadge Rd.

w Approved the site plan review for a salon and spa at Garden and Manley roads.

w Denied an application for a waiver of sign standards at 2628 Lagrange St. sought by Shea Sleep Systems, Inc.

w Reviewed a compromise set of design standards for new commercial buildings.

w Deferred for 30 days an application for a special-use permit to open a gas station and convenience store at 2829 West Central Ave.

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