December 19, 2014

Elyria
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New challenges emerge for schools as new year starts

If you’re an Elyria High student, the crescendo of crumbling homes outside your classroom window is simply the sound of progress.

And if you’re a student in Lorain schools, the absence of sound altogether is … the sound of some 200 teachers not being around.

Area school officials say they’re geared up to accept any challenges the coming school year hands them, including Lorain’s new superintendent, Cheryl Atkinson, whose academic year officially kicks off Monday when the district’s students skitter in.

Lorain Schools fell on rough times earlier this year when it discovered an unprojected $4.75 million deficit — an oversight by the district’s former treasurer, who failed to account for an exodus of students to charter schools.

The discovery forced the district to make drastic cuts, including laying off almost 200 teachers.

“We have been closely monitoring enrollment and have developed staffing based on those needs,” Atkinson said Friday in an e-mail.

“Although we still have many students who are registering, we are confident we will have adequate staffing on Monday.”

The district has also instituted dress codes at many of its schools, and changed its starting time for the school day at Admiral King and Southview high schools — from roughly 8 a.m. to 7:35 a.m.

Atkinson said the student-teacher ratio could require some adjustments within the next week if enrollment changes “dramatically,” but guarantees the district is prepared for that scenario. 

Lorain school officials are also encouraging parents to visit their children’s schools on Monday to “begin the year on a positive note.”

In Elyria, meanwhile, Superintendent Paul Rigda assured parents that Elyria High School students won’t be disrupted in the years-long march toward building a new EHS. 

“The entire school year Elyria High School will be pretty much intact,” Rigda said. “Anything that occurs in the way of construction — vehicles, hammering, removal — is most likely going to occur between Sixth and Seventh streets, in the newly acquired land.”

The district is on the cusp of purchasing all the needed properties within Sixth and Seventh streets and West and Middle avenues, which is the block of property targeted to accommodate the new EHS expansion. 

Apart from demolition of existing structures in the new high school’s expansion area, students will see little in the way of actual construction work to start, Rigda said.

“The site preparation carries us through most of this school year,” Rigda said. “By the time we’re done with schematics and design, it’ll be late summer.”

A special orientation held for EHS freshmen — the group who will accompany the EHS construction project from inception to first bell — was held recently.

“We told them they shouldn’t think just because they don’t see any construction, (it doesn’t mean) nothing is happening,” Rigda said.

“But they should have very, very little to do with these first stages.”

Next school year and the two years following, however, will be an entirely different matter as demolition begins on some sections of the current high school and students are phased into new sections as they sprout.

“I think everyone has done a great job getting ready for the opening,” Rigda said.

Elyria Schools is welcoming new administrators at some schools: Darren Conley was hired as principal at Westwood Junior High, Franco Gallo was hired as assistant principal at Northwood Junior High and Elsa Manco was hired as interim assistant principal at Elyria High School.

Contact Shawn Foucher at 329-7197 or sfoucher@chroniclet.com.