- Associated Press - Saturday, February 8, 2014

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - Administrators in Ohio’s largest school district are weighing a plan to close seven buildings, including two high schools, forcing relocation of 2,500 students.

The Columbus City Schools’ board plans a special meeting on the proposal Tuesday, with a decision likely in March.

A decision in favor of shuttering Brookhaven and Independence high schools would mark the first high school closures in the district in more than 30 years. The district most recently closed Central High School in 1982. It’s now the site of the city’s science museum, COSI.

Lower schools proposed for closure are Monroe Middle School and Arlington Park, Fifth Avenue, Maybury and Siebert elementaries.

Board president Gary Baker said at least two public hearings will be scheduled to gather feedback on the plan.

“The board will consider all of that all very carefully, recognizing that this is a very difficult process,” he told The Columbus Dispatch (https://bit.ly/1njOnNl ).

The district has said it needs to cut $50 million from next school year’s budget, but money isn’t being cited as a reason for recommending the school closings. In a memo that Superintendent Dan Good sent to administrators on Jan. 27, cost savings weren’t mentioned, The Dispatch reported.

Good said the closures were being recommended based on building usage, capacity, physical condition and enrollment. He didn’t indicate how much money would be saved nor how teachers and staff may be affected.

Baker said the board has a duty to be “as fiscally responsible as possible.”

Columbus, which has been embroiled in a long-running attendance tampering scandal, is financially secure for the next two school years, the newspaper reported. It faces a $200 million shortfall by the summer of 2018 barring an infusion of new money, such as a voter-approved tax increase.

Both targeted high schools are significantly under capacity. Brookhaven, on the city’s north side, holds 1,145 and has 521 enrolled. Independence, on the far east side, holds 1,063 and has 635 enrolled.

Under the proposal, Brookhaven students would be assigned to Mifflin and Independence students would go to Walnut Ridge. All surviving middle and elementary schools that feed to Brookhaven and Independence would now feed to Mifflin and Walnut Ridge respectively under the plan, except Como Elementary, which would feed to Whetstone.


Information from: The Columbus Dispatch, https://www.dispatch.com

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