A Master Facilities Update from Supt. Doug Heuer

The Cleveland Heights and University Heights communities have spent the last two years giving voice to their ideas, wants and needs about school facilities. Substantial work has been done in that time.  Beginning in early 2011, the District brought together more than 50 community members, elected officials, staff and experts to begin planning how we should address our facilities challenges.

And those challenges are significant. The first things the Citizen Facilities Committee learned included a few critical facts:

  • CH-UH hasn’t substantially renovated or improved our facilities in 40 years.
  • Every one of our schools is in need of major repairs. The complete cost of repairing the district’s facilities is more than $40 million.
  • Classrooms of the past can’t provide students with the education they need to be successful in today’s increasingly technology-driven world. If we only repair what needs to be fixed, we do our children a disservice. They need classrooms that allow them to learn 21st Century skills.
  • We have fewer students now than in the past, and as a result we have a lot of space that is going unused. Heating, cooling and cleaning this extra space is an unnecessary expense and these funds could be better used elsewhere.  If we create new, efficient buildings and demolishing buildings that aren’t environmentally or pocketbook friendly, we can better serve our students, community and environment.

The results of all this information led the Citizens Facilities Committee to determine that the CH-UH School District need a comprehensive facilities plan, one that envisioned buildings that meet the needs of today’s education and tomorrow’s students. This plan would mean that we wouldn’t continue to throw good money after bad, wasting the community’s money on costly Band-Aids, but instead tackle the issues at the source. Just as importantly, it would have to take into consideration a realistic assessment of what this community can afford.

Following the recommendation of the Citizens Facilities Committee, the District spent a year and a half talking with members of the community about what it would like – and not like – to see in the new facilities. It convened large-scale community Master Facilities Planning meetings and smaller community conversation at local libraries and coffee shops. We took the most popular and practical ideas from these meetings and worked with our architects to create Plan C, the Community Plan.

Compromises have been made to the Plan along the way, but in order to do this right and address all of this community’s needs, the plan had to be comprehensive. Every comprehensive plan comes with a price tag. This is the least expensive plan that still does what the community has been asking for.  The Plan would use renovation in some places and new construction in others to create school facilities that address our needs in a way we can afford.

The need is immediate and great.  At the moment, we don’t have one science lab in the entire District that meets current state standards.  A recent leak at Roxboro Elementary caused more than $150,000 in damages. The lighting and temperatures in our classrooms, our air quality, and our building acoustics are unsafe, outdated or inefficient. These are just a few of our serious problems.

Plan C calls for some renovation and some new construction, and new construction will require demolition.  No one likes replacing school buildings that have rich histories and hold fond memories for so many CH-UH alumni and parents, but it is a necessary step to make our district more cost-efficient and more effective. The smaller space will be less expensive to heat, cool and maintain and will save our District more than $3 million in operating savings every year.

Plan C will allow us to be consistent with the new state model curriculum and the designations for grade levels for teacher licensure. It will also eliminate staffing problems and allow our teachers to teach a variety of classes without switching buildings.

Plan C will allow us to support our teachers. Our current buildings are not designed for collaboration. They’re conducive to lectures; one-way learning does not engage students in meaningful ways, prompt curiosity or encourage questions.

Plan C will create “Learning Communities,” spaces that foster collaboration among teachers and students. A 2011 study, “The Missing Link in School Reform” shows students are more successful when teachers and students think together.  A 2011 report in the American Educational Research Journal, “Problem-Based Learning in K-12 Education,” also echoes that sentiment. It found a 200 – 400% improvement in in learning outcomes with authentically student-driven, enquiry-based learning, which we will be able to achieve through Plan C’s Learning Communities. And our teachers agree. You can hear their thoughts here: http://www.chuh.org/multimedia/videos/detail/oxford-facilities-pilot

We understand Plan C comes with a price tag, and we see this as an investment in our students and communities. The District is doing everything it can to make our ideal schools financially feasible.

We are tapping into private funding to absorb major parts of cost for a swimming pool, a performing arts center, our Learning Community configurations at the elementary level, career tech learning spaces and a new stadium.

We all have the best interests of our students and our neighborhoods at heart. We ask you please continue to work with us and support Plan C, “The Community Plan,” our community’s plan.  Together, we can have schools that teach today and tomorrow’s students the 21st Century skills they need at a price we can afford.

Next steps:

The first formal vote to put a bond issue on the November ballot is expected at the board’s meeting Tuesday, July 3. This meeting will be streamed live on our website at www.chuh.org.

At the July 3, meeting the board will vote on three resolutions:

1)   A resolution determining the district is a special needs district.

2)   A resolution authorizing the auditor to determine a millage based on the budget and to craft the ballot language.

3)    A resolution to adopt the comprehensive plan in order for the district to qualify for funding from the Ohio School Facilities Commission.

If the Board votes yes to the three resolutions, then at the July 17 board meeting, they would vote on a final resolution to approve the millage and final ballot language.

Sun Press article on Plan C

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About chuhfacilitiesmasterplan

Angee Shaker, Director of Communications
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