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Published: Friday, 2/7/2014 - Updated: 10 months ago

COMMENTARY

Time is right to revive Macomber

BY KEITH C. BURRIS
COLUMNIST FOR THE BLADE

One of the most amazing, and indisputable, points of consensus in Toledo today concerns the old Macomber School — once the city's central location for vocational education. So successful and well run was it that, during World War II, it operated 24/​7 in behalf of the war effort.

High school students learned to make things and their work was vitally important.

Macomber also taught standard academic courses, on a high level. And it had a proud sports heritage, despite not having a football field. The gym still exists, though somewhat the worse for 20 years of abandonment.

It was a great school. Ask any alum. Macomber's graduates are fiercely loyal, proud, and successful. But Toledo Public School shut it down in 1992.

The point of consensus — across city and suburb, left and right, old and young — is this: It was a mistake to close Macom-ber and it should be revived.

American labor, in the world labor market, is becoming a bargain. The rust belt and the old industrial base really can come back. But we need skilled workers for that to happen. People who can actually make things, but with modern technology. We will need metal workers again, but also electricians who are computer literate, and medical technicians who know chemistry. Moreover, we need to start training the new Toledo work force in high school.

The leading champion of reviving Macomber is TPS Superintendent Romules Durant. The great thing about the new consensus is that it allows us to do something good, and big, for Toledo and its young relatively quickly. We can put some points on the board.

I toured Macomber last week. And, miraculously, that noble, old building is more or less intact.

The bad news is that the building is taken. I visited Macomber with Dan Rogers, head of Cherry Street Mission, which now owns the building and has begun rehabilitation. Mr. Rogers has big plans for the building. This is great news for the homeless, but it means a new Macomber High School would need a new home.

No problem. We should not be dissuaded. And I hope Mr. Durant will not be. We should resurrect Macomber, and it should be, as the superintendent says, located in the central city.

Two suggestions for where: the vacant Nicholas Building downtown or the vacant Spitzer Building. These are downtown buildings that everyone agrees should be saved, they are well constructed, and TPS could buy either one for $300,000 to $400,000 or less. Just think of the energy several hundred high school students would add just a few blocks away from the 700 professionals ProMedica will be bringing downtown. And many of the students who would attend Macomber II are living in surrounding neighborhoods.

It’s happening, folks. Let’s put some points on the board.

Keith C. Burris is a columnist for The Blade.

Contact him at: kburris@theblade.com or 419-724-6266.



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