October 22, 2014

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Lorain Schools taking back Lincoln


Cheryl Atkinson, Lorain City Schools superintendent, listens to a speaker at Monday’s board meeting. 

LORAIN — Just over a year ago, the Lorain Schools allowed the vacant Lincoln Elementary School to be transformed into a community center set up to honor a teenage girl who was fatally shot by a stray bullet while she was in her living room.

On Monday, the Lorain school board voted to reclaim the building.

The board unanimously approved a resolution to terminate the lease it has with the Coalition for South Lorain so it can demolish the building. A new Whittier Middle School is planned for the site.

The new building is a part of the district’s plan to construct several new buildings using funds from the Ohio School Facilities Commission. After recent discussion about where the buildings would go, the board decided that the site of the former Lincoln Elementary on East 31st Street offered the most adequate space for a new middle school, board member Raul Ramos said.

“We’ve been open and up front with the Lincoln Community Center since the lease was signed,” Ramos said. “When we received approval from the state to continue with the project, everyone knew the demolition of Lincoln was inevitable.”

Ramos said the board will work with the Coalition for South Lorain on a timetable for leaving the building. Demolition likely will not be completed until next year, and a new Whittier building is still a few more years away, school spokesman Dean Schnurr said.

The new Whittier will be similar to the other new middle schools in the district and will be equipped with state-of-the-art technology and enhanced academic facilities, according to a press release.

Lincoln Community Center Director Leon Mason said he found out about the board’s intentions to terminate the lease on Friday and called the move a shock. Violent crime has drastically decreased since the center opened, and Mason said he’s worried that the board did not give him enough time to find a new location.

“I’ll do whatever I have to do to keep this open,” he said.

Mason hopes to begin a grant-writing and fundraising drive to raise nearly $500,000 for a new facility, but he said he’ll need at least six months. 

The center has become a place where South Lorain children spend their free time, playing sports or just hanging out. The most important thing, Mason said, is that they are staying off the streets.

The facility has only two full-time employees, both paid for using grants, and the cleaning is done by children who are doing court-ordered community service.

The center was created by several community organizations, including the Lorain Police Department, as a way to stop violence in South Lorain, which erupted with several murders in 2005, including the shooting death of 15-year-old Samarrie Soler.

Contact Adam Wright at 653-6257 or awright@chroniclet.com.