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Published: Monday, 10/1/2007

Cleveland school plan forecasts $217M need


CLEVELAND - A construction plan approved by the Cleveland School District will need another $217 million to complete building and renovations on the final 26 schools of the project, school officials said.

According to a report by the (Cleveland) Plain Dealer, school officials want voters to approve the money in a bond issue to help cover some segments of the plan - the second voter-approved loan for the project.

The construction plan is on track to exhaust its $1 billion budget in 2012, officials said.

If approved, the bond would add nine years of debt to the current 28-year bond, and cost the owner of a $100,000 home just over $1,000 for the extra period.

Mayor Frank Jackson called the plan "thorough and practical" but expressed some hesitancy about the bond issue.

The original 12-year plan, devised under former schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett, called for projects in 111 buildings.

New superintendent Eugene Sanders is overhauling the plan, shifting more focus to elementary schools and space for pre-kindergarten.

Mr. Sanders said the project is part of the district's attempt to keep neighborhood schools open despite slumping enrollments caused by competition from voucher and charter schools and a declining city population. In 2002, the district had 73,000 students; this year, it has 50,000, with the state predicting the loss of 10,000 more by 2015.

Mr. Sanders' new proposal, which must be approved by the school board and the state, is expected to draw opposition from city council members whose constituents were promised new or renovated schools in the original plan.

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