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Published: Tuesday, 8/28/2007

Toledo Public Schools ready for Day 1 at 10 new buildings

BY IGNAZIO MESSINA
BLADE STAFF WRITER
John Foley, superintendent of Toledo Public Schools, tours the new Byrnedale Middle School alongside Gracie, the school mascot. Educators, students, and parents seemed excited about the new schools. John Foley, superintendent of Toledo Public Schools, tours the new Byrnedale Middle School alongside Gracie, the school mascot. Educators, students, and parents seemed excited about the new schools.
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Pamela King is well-known as a tough-as-nails principal who expects the best.

But her typical woman-in-charge expression, which includes a stare that instantly kills seventh-grade hijinks, was replaced yesterday by an unavoidable grin.

That's especially odd because today is the first day of school, usually a hectic day.

But it's a new building and she couldn't help herself.

Workers yesterday at Ms. King's new Jones Junior High - now officially a mouthful: Samuel M. Jones at Gunckel Park Middle School - were scrambling to complete the last details for opening day.

"This is such a beautiful building, the kids want to come here, and morale is way up," Ms. King said yesterday in between phone calls from parents and questions from teachers.

"The colors are so wonderful here, and we don't have that ugly, clinical yellow that was on the walls in the old school," she said.

Toledo Public will open 10 new schools today - the most so far at one time in the state under Ohio's new school building program, Superintendent John Foley said.

Teacher Ron Battle takes an audiovisual unit into the new Leverette Middle School. Teacher Ron Battle takes an audiovisual unit into the new Leverette Middle School.
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Work on most of Toledo's new schools will continue right up to the first bell today, and for weeks after at some.

"We are going to be open and ready to go, but there may be some punch-list items that need to be finished," Mr. Foley said yesterday while inspecting the new Byrnedale Middle School.

The superintendent was at the new Leverette Middle School until after midnight Saturday morning as work there continued.

School officials admit there were delays and they have cut it close, especially at Leverette, where workers were installing roofing shingles as late as Sunday afternoon. "That one was going to be right down to the wire," said Ron Victor, TPS chief business manager. "We were most concerned about Leverette and Stewart Academy for Girls, which was originally supposed to open in October."

New schools opening today are Byrnedale, Leverette, Samuel M. Jones at Gunckel Park, and McTigue middle schools, and Burroughs, Rosa Parks, Garfield, Keyser, Navarre elementary schools, and Stewart.

Nick Klebba makes adjustments in the Leverette lobby. The new schools will have state-of-the-art technology, but not all on the first day. Nick Klebba makes adjustments in the Leverette lobby. The new schools will have state-of-the-art technology, but not all on the first day.
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Elementary students will have a half-day of school. Students in middle and high school are to attend a full day.

Mr. Foley said the new schools will have state-of-the-art technology, but not all on the first day.

Francine Lawrence, president of the Toledo Federation of Teachers, criticized the district last week for failing to have all the technology hooked up by today.

Nevertheless, teachers, parents, and even children seemed excited about their new schools.

Jason Cole, who went to Cherry Elementary in the late 1980s, decided to send his children to the new Cherry, which was renamed in honor of Rosa Parks.

"The new school is smaller, but it is beautiful, and I like that they will not have as many students," Mr. Cole said.

The state has funded 77 percent of the cost of the new schools. Voters in 2001 approved funding 23 percent of the project.

When the new Keyser opens today, the older children will be in the older building. The new Keyser Elementary is built for 368 students in kindergarten through grade five.

The old Keyser ended last school year with 520 children, but that included the sixth graders 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 in the new building.

Several of the new schools have had enrollment increases over last year and officials are crediting the new facilities.

Diane McGee, principal of Rosa Parks Elementary, said about 50 students enrolled in the last two weeks.

"Now that we are back in the neighborhood, our office is filled with parents who want to come to this school," Ms. McGee said. "Plus, as a school, we are in continuous improvement, and I credit that to the staff and parents."

The district as a whole recently was placed in "academic watch," the equivalent of a D grade in Ohio's five-tier rating system.

The new DeVeaux Middle School and Start High are scheduled to open after the winter break.

Contact Ignazio Messina at:

imessina@theblade.com

or 419-724-6171.



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