Capacity issues draw city schools concern
by DELANEY WALKER, Banner Staff Writer
Oct 02, 2012 | 1285 views | 0 0 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print
More than 400 new apartments will be built over the next two years; this means more children will be moving into the community and Cleveland City Schools has no classroom space to give them unless measures are taken now.

“We cannot do quick growth like this and not do quick action,” according to Dr. Martin Ringstaff, city schools director. “That cannot happen. Gradual growth is one thing, but they are throwing up 324 luxury apartments on Adkisson [Drive] and 199 over there by Spring Creek without them [Cleveland City Council] helping us. This goes beyond a sense of urgency. We don’t have anywhere for these kids.”

Ringstaff is referring to the 324 one- and two-bedroom apartments in nine buildings to be built on a 28-acre hillside fronting Adkisson Drive. These buildings are a project of Shumate Development Corporation of Westerville, Ohio.

“Out of 324 apartments, let’s say half of them have one kid, then you are at about 160,” Ringstaff said. “...Let’s say 70 go to the elementary school — we can’t do it. That is way over capacity.”

City school officials recently released a five-year growth projection. There was an anticipated 500-pupil jump over the next four years with schools breaching over capacity. These new residential areas are expected to be the tipping point.

“These apartments are going dead center next to Ross and Yates [elementary schools],” Ringstaff said. “There is no way you can rezone those apartments. Ross and Yates are already full. We can’t build like that and expect Ross and Yates to pick up that kind of population.”

The Spring Creek apartments on the east end of 25th Street have built 199 units. An additional 112 apartments are under construction. Children from these apartments are zoned to attend Mayfield Elementary.

Mayfield is currently 104 students over capacity with 554 students enrolled for the 2012-13 school year. Construction of nearby apartments is anticipated to bring in more students. All available space is currently being used by the elementary school. The art and music classrooms, as well as a counseling room, have all been turned into classrooms.

The Cleveland Board of Education has approached the City Council and is prepared to do so again.

“The City Council has a budget planning meeting Nov. 14. We are going to meet with the City Council before then,” Ringstaff said. “At one of the Council meetings we will go on the agenda and will present a portfolio of what a school would cost. It will be the complete latch-key design with what we need to do.”

Ringstaff said they would like to find a way to raise the funds without affecting taxes.

“This may require getting creative,” Ringstaff said. “The City Council last told me they would bring up the issue when they have the joint meeting with the County Commission.”

A recent Banner interview with Jeff Elliott, supervisor of curriculum and instruction for city schools, revealed many city schools are using all of their space.

“Mr. Chai [principal] at Arnold [Elementary] does not have any room either. Down the list you go,” Elliott said. “We are using all of our space. That is the bottom line. This is a really big concern for us.”

Schools at present unaffected by the new apartments are experiencing their own growing pains, as well. Blythe-Bower Elementary is currently nine students over capacity. Previous projected growth places them 79 students over capacity next year. George R. Stuart Elementary is currently 31 students over capacity, and is expected to be 52 students over next year.

Schools have about a 60-100 student wiggle room between being over capacity and bursting at the seams with students. Being over capacity with more students arriving means altering the layout of a school. Extracurricular activities seen as vital to a child’s growth, like art and music, lose classroom space.

“... I feel like our City Council wants to do everything to make Cleveland great,” Ringstaff said. “Infrastructure, especially with the school systems, is something we are going to have to discuss. We cannot look at this kind of growth and say, ‘Keep coming.’ I want them to keep coming, but we need seats for the kids.”