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Published: Saturday, 4/8/2006

Retiree says TPS board is ignoring alternative

BY IGNAZIO MESSINA
BLADE STAFF WRITER

A retired engineer, who says he presented Toledo Public Schools with a credible alternative to closing elementary schools, said yesterday his proposal has been ignored.

Ralph Trease also said he was offended by a comment made by a board member that no one offered any usable alternatives this week during public meetings.

At issue is the district's need to cut $12 million from its 2006-2007 budget, and the pending decision to save the budget by closing certain schools. The board of education yesterday postponed a vote on closing King Elementary, Fall-Meyer Elementary, Mount Vernon Elementary, Jones Junior High, and East Toledo Junior High to help balance its budget.

Mr. Trease, who lives in the Old West End, urged the board during a forum Tuesday night to close most or all junior high schools and transfer the current seventh-grade students into high schools to form an eight through 12th grade environment.

He believes that would save about $7 million and also allow the district to keep its current elementary schools open, he said.

Current sixth graders, he says, should be retained next year in their current elementary buildings after they are promoted to seventh grade to create K-7 buildings.

Board member Larry Sykes - who after the Tuesday's meeting said he didn't hear any alternatives other than "don't close my school" - last night said Mr. Trease should make his case to the district's superintendent.

"I read his proposal - he wants to close all middle schools; well, we are building new middle schools," Mr. Sykes said.

TPS opened the new East Broadway Middle School in East Toledo earlier this year, and the new Robinson Middle School is nearly complete.

"If Mr. Trease wants to show us how we could save $7 million or more, show us how to bus students, then he should meet with the superintendent," Mr. Sykes said.

Mr. Trease, a Detroit native who has lived in Toledo for 45 years, favors renovation over construction of new buildings. He has regularly urged the school district to halt construction of new buildings.

The current plan sends children displaced from Jones Junior High to Marshall, Newbury, Pickett, Stewart, Walbridge, and Westfield elementary schools would be transformed into K-8. Birmingham, Garfield, and Raymer elementary schools would be turned from their current K-6 to K-8 and take in the children from East Toledo Junior High.

Dan Burns, chief business manager for the district, said he does not agree with Mr. Trease that all elementary schools can survive with the deficit and the district's steady enrollment loss over the past several years.

"His basic point is to close all middle schools or junior high schools," Mr. Burns said. "I said to him that's not going to work down the road."



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