Which Of Lakewood's Elementary Schools Will Close?
At the June 4 BOE meeting, budget reductions (to close the gap from reduced property taxes and state funding) proposed by Superintendent Jeff Patterson were approved.
One of the most difficult cuts for the community is the closure of an elementary school, with the announcement being made this August for the 2013-2014 school year. The schools being considered are those that have not been renovated, or rebuilt: Grant, Roosevelt, and Lincoln.
Superintendent Patterson has the task of sortng the factors that go into making this choice.
What criteria will he be using?
We already know the most important one. A school is closing because the District needs to save money.
Which school’s closing saves the most money?
All of the schools' administrative costs are relatively the same. Closing one will save having a Principal, a Secretary, support staff etc.
So the only monetary difference is in the operating costs of the buildings (gas bill, etc) and maintenance, based on their age and condition--what kind of shape are these buildings in, anyway? This is especially relevant since our District has committed to renovating our remaining schools. In a time when we are experiencing a 12 million dollar shortfall, it would make no sense to to spend 16 million renovating one building when we could spend 4 million and fully renovate another.
So that’s money.
Mr. Patterson also has to consider what this closure will do to the District itself, which has no busing, and prides itself on having neighborhood schools where elementary school children and their families can walk to school. With only 6 elementary schools serving the whole District, their placement is important.
So a second criterion would be, "Which closure has the least negative impact on families and neighborhoods and the structure of the school system for now and for the future of Lakewood?"
How does one figure this out? Where is the densest population of families in Lakewood? This is likely a place where a school should be. What length of walks will elementary school children have, given the placement of the different schools? Will they be able to remain in their neighborhoods? Will Lakewood still have neighborhood schools, or will school be far away from where children live? Making access to school buildings difficult makes access to education difficult.
Lastly, it seems important to consider the impact a school closing would have on the primary business of our schools-- education. Two of the three schools being considered for closure are Lakewood's ONLY Excellent-rated elementary schools. Grant and Lincoln have consistently outranked the District's other elementary buildings on the state Report Card. This speaks highly of the teams inside of the schools. These groups of teachers and administrators are the source of our children's education. It has very little to do with the buildings they inhabit. You can't move them like chess pieces, or swap them out. They have been built over time, they work together, and they know what they're doing.
Will Lakewood really dismantle either of the two most effective, high-performing teams in the city, teams that meet each challenge and keep shining? Teams that are the envy not only of cities like Cleveland, who would do anything to have such high-performing schools, but of our suburbs to the West? Two of our elementary schools are doing everything right, as their report cards show. Surely this must be another important factor to consider.
While the rest of us are kicking back and relaxing in the summer sun, Mr. Patterson has his work cut out for him.