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Published: Sunday, 6/17/2007

Some new Toledo schools opening to space crunch

BY IGNAZIO MESSINA
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Leaders of Toledo Public Schools envision having all new or renovated state-of-the- art buildings and a classroom seat for every child in five years.

In the meantime, the school system could be in a lurch this fall as it opens Keyser Elementary, the second new school that will turn out to be too small for its number of students forcing the district to keep both the old and new buildings open at the same time.

Additionally, two more school buildings DeVeaux and Byrnedale middle schools are scheduled to open later in the academic year and could have the same problem.

Superintendent John Foley said adjustments to the district s building program master plan since it began five years ago, coupled with school closings last year, have caused a domino effect of problems.

Previously, designers of the plan have built schools that may fit the projections of 2012, but don t fit today s population, Mr. Foley said.

Toledo s new Keyser Elementary School was built for 368 students in kindergarten through grade five. Toledo s new Keyser Elementary School was built for 368 students in kindergarten through grade five.
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It s certainly going to lead us to some crowded conditions and we ll have to make some adjustments, he said. At the end of the day in 2012, we ll be fine, but currently we have some adjustments to make in the process.

Two years ago, district data predicted there would be just under 31,000 students in the system by 2010 and that the forecast likely would get worse.

TPS is already below that number, with 29,400 students enrolled in fall, 2006. Last week, Mr. Foley said district officials expect to be down to 24,000 students in 2012.

Just two years ago, the school district was struggling to adapt to more than a decade of enrollment declines, mostly because of the proliferation of charter schools. The publicly funded, privately operated schools lured 6,464 TPS students this year.

Classrooms sat empty in many schools, so buildings were closed and teachers were laid off to cut costs.

In the fall, TPS will face the opposite problem.

We ve got some schools that are going to be overbuilt based on our projected losses and gains of students, and we have some buildings that will be underbuilt, Mr. Foley said.

The situation means leaders may have to consider reworking school district boundaries.

Eventually, although it won t be popular, I think the reality is we are going to have to change district lines to accommodate the building projects and hopefully with as little disruption to the neighborhood school concept as possible, the superintendent said.

The old Keyser Elementary, will stay open to ease a space crunch. The old Keyser Elementary, will stay open to ease a space crunch.
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The first sign of overcrowding was at East Broadway Middle School, which opened in January, 2006, for just the sixth grades from Oakdale and Navarre Elementary schools but housed seventh and eighth grades during the 2006-07 school year.

The board of education closed five schools King, Fall-Meyer, and Mount Vernon elementaries and Jones and East Toledo junior highs last year to help balance a $12 million deficit projected for the 2006-07 school year.

East Side Central Elementary also was closed.

The new East Broadway Middle School was then the only TPS school in East Toledo for grades six through eight.

Sixth graders had to be kept in the elementary buildings since East Broadway Middle School wasn t large enough to accommodate them, Mr. Foley said.

It was still over capacity this past school year by more than 100 students with just the seventh and eighth grade students.

Keyser Elementary Principal Gary Devol said the plan to keep the new and old schools open side-by-side could be greeted in August with opposition.

When they decided to send the Mount Vernon kids over here, it threw the numbers out of whack, Mr. Devol said.

The new Keyser Elementary is built for 368 students in grades kindergarten through five.

The old Keyser finished this school year with 520 children, but that included the sixth grade students who can attend the newly built McTigue Middle School.

Without the sixth graders, Keyser still had about 460 students.

To deal with the space problem, grades four and five will be kept in the older building and kindergarten through third will be housed in the new Keyser.

Principal Gary Devol, center, assists Vince Whitacre, left, and Todd Polker inside the new Keyser Elementary School. Principal Gary Devol, center, assists Vince Whitacre, left, and Todd Polker inside the new Keyser Elementary School.
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Five years ago, the district started an $821 million construction program to replace or renovate every school in the district. Voters approved funding 23 percent of the project, and the state is funding the remaining 77 percent of the cost.

Toledo Public officials have said all along that the Ohio School Facilities Commission basically calls the shots because the commission is paying most of the cost.

Originally, each of the district s seven learning communities, with the exception of the Rogers area, was promised two new middle schools.

That component of the program was scaled back at the direction of the facilities commission.

Last year, Lagrange, Lincoln, Franklin, and Newbury elementary schools and Libbey High School were taken out of the building program.

Being removed from the program means a building could be closed, not renovated, or improved using just local money.

The total cost for the TPS building program now stands at about $634 million.

School districts across the state are participating in the Ohio School Facilities Commission program.

There have been problems in most cities, including Toledo, where construction at the new Leverette Middle School came under review after a partially finished masonry wall collapsed.

Rick Savors, spokesman for the commission, said all of the urban districts have been forced to scale back building programs because of enrollment declines.

Thirty-four schools about one-third of the project could be removed from Cleveland s school construction program.

There is a process built in that allows us to make corrections if enrollment projections become inaccurate for various reasons, Mr. Savors said.

Toledo Board of Education member Darlene Fisher, who is often at odds with her fellow members, has for more than a year been calling for a review of the program.

Keeping two buildings open at once, as in the case of Keyser, is going to affect our general [budget] because we weren t planning on budgeting for the cost of two buildings, Ms. Fisher said.

I think we knew we were going to have major problems once we knew we couldn t fulfill the promise of two middle schools in each of the learning communities, she said. DeVeaux is going to need two schools open for just seven through eight.

The old DeVeaux Junior High has its share of problems.

With four additions built onto the original building, students can t get from some parts of the second floor to others without going down one set of stairs, into another section of the building, and then up another set of stairs.

Between classes, students crowd into the hallways and struggle to make it to their next class.

The school in 1929 was originally built as a K-8 elementary school when students didn t change rooms for each subject.

Vince Hornik, a parent at DeVeaux, said he is not concerned that the new school is being built too small but does worry the district could keep two schools open at the Sylvania Avenue site.

That would not sit well, he said. I can t picture the traffic nightmare of getting kids into two different buildings.

Right now, parents don t know for sure what grades will be in the new building.

I ve heard they go back and forth on that, Mr. Hornik said. The student population at DeVeaux stood at about 920 in grades seven and eight when the school year ended earlier this month.

The new building, expected to be done in March, 2008, is supposed to hold 586 students in grades six through eight.

We are losing some students because some who lived in the Cherry [elementary] district will be going to Robinson Middle School, so we are expecting 830 or 820, said DeVeaux Principal Jim Gault. This is a problem that they are working to fix.

Toledo Public Schools plans to open eight possibly 10 new school buildings in the fall to replace its aging facilities.

The new schools expected to open at the start of the 2007-08 academic year are Byrnedale, Leverette, Libbey, and McTigue middle schools and Burroughs, Garfield, Keyser, and Navarre elementary schools.

The new Cherry Elementary and the Stewart Academy for Girls also are slated to open, but both buildings are listed as possibly in the district s construction documents.

The new Byrnedale is designed to hold 551 students in grades six through eight, but it had 639 students in just grades seven and eight during 2006-07.

Contact Ignazio Messina at:imessina@theblade.comor 419-724-6171.



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