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Published: Wednesday, 11/19/2003

Heat problems cause TPS to move classes from Whitney to DeVilbiss

BY CLYDE HUGHES
BLADE STAFF WRITER

In continuing fallout from utility problems at the former Macomber High School, Toledo Public Schools announced yesterday it is abandoning the adjacent Whitney Adult Education Center, which receives its utilities from Macomber.

The move was made the same day The Blade reported various maintenance problems with the Macomber facility, forcing the closure Monday of the Whitney center and three charter schools in the Macomber facility.

The closure could mark the end of the Whitney center as an education facility. The district has used the building for the past 64 years as the girls' vocational school and, since 1991, for adult and post-educational classes.

Dan Burns, the district's chief business manager, said classes for about 160 students in both night school and adult education will be moved to the former DeVilbiss High School, 3301 Upton Ave., by the end of the Thanksgiving holiday.

A natural gas leak was found by Columbia Gas inspectors preparing to turn gas back on at the Macomber building, 1501 Monroe St. Natural gas had been shut off since April because of unpaid utility bills, Columbia Gas officials said.

Luttenberg & Co., the sheet metal and roofing firm that owns the building, said it was disputing the bill.

Luttenberg had been using propane to heat the building. The company, which bought Macomber from Toledo Public Schools in 1998, had an agreement with the district to provide utilities to the Whitney center.

Fire officials on Monday said Macomber was never inspected and cleared for use of propane in the two buildings.

“We had no control over the heating problems [at Whitney],” said district Superintendent Dr. Eugene Sanders. “The heating system is in the Macomber building. Now we are moving these programs into a facility where we won't have that problem.”

Mr. Burns said while the Whitney center wasn't problem free, maintenance personnel with the district were able to promptly fix problems there. The problems at Macomber, though, became more problematic recently.

“There were some complaints about heating [Whit- ney], and we always responded to those,” Mr. Burns said. “The events over the past couple of days helped lead us to this decision. We have a responsibility to the students and the staff there.”

Mr. Burns said he looked at possible alternatives to the Whitney Building, but a move wasn't on the drawing board. He said he doesn't like to close buildings in the middle of the school year, but the uncertainty about heating at Whitney made the move necessary.

Mr. Burns said he believes the district could save roughly $100,000 annually with the move because of support staff and systems already in place at DeVilbiss. He said he believes the savings could be greater in the future.

He said 10 to 15 classrooms will be used in an empty wing at DeVilbiss. Mr. Burns said many students took classes to earn their GEDs at Whitney as well as attend nursing programs. He said a culinary arts program had moved to Woodward High School before the school year started.

“I think people would be surprised to see how little work would be needed for those classrooms at DeVilbiss,” Mr. Burns said. “Some of them will need a little painting, but they are in very good shape.”

The Whitney Vocational School opened as an all-girls vocational school in 1939, but spent part of that year on the third floor of Webster School, the building that now houses the district's administration offices. Macomber Vocational School, an all-boys school, opened a year earlier.

In February, 1940, students moved into the current Whitney site on Washington Street. The two schools became co-educational in 1959 but closed as high schools in 1991 due to declining enrollment and budget problems.

Mr. Burns said there are no immediate plans for the Whitney center, but it could be used for storage space.



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