December 19, 2014

Elyria
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Lorain Schools officials take on parents’ questions

LORAIN — A partnership between Oberlin College and Lorain Schools may be the key to putting instrumental music programs back in the elementary schools.

Lorain Superintendent Cheryl Atkinson said Tuesday that she may seek the help of college students to teach the program if the district doesn’t receive a federal grant to restore the program.

TOM MAHL
Carol Gates (standing right), of Lorain, who recently retired after 36 years as a teacher in Lorain, speaks at Tuesday night’s meeting.

The district is in the process of applying for the U.S. Department of Education Magnet grant, which would go toward restoring many of the programs that were cut from the elementary schools over the summer to save money, including fine arts.

“If (the grant) doesn’t come through, we’ll have to be creative in terms of how we spread minimal funding across the schools,” Atkinson said.

Atkinson discussed the plan during the first of three town hall meetings sponsored by several Lorain social organizations. The hour-long meeting provided a chance for about 100 parents and other community members to have questions and concerns addressed.

To ensure that the questions could be answered, four other administrators attended the meeting with Atkinson, including Chief Operations Officer Dan DeNicola, Chief Human Resources Officer Frank Sowell, Executive Director of Education and Student Services Director Elaine Banks and Treasurer Ryan Ghizzoni.

Atkinson said the meetings were designed to open lines of communication between the schools and community in the wake of the district’s financial woes.

The district was forced to lay off more than 240 teachers and close several school buildings over the summer to avoid a $15 million deficit that Ghizzoni found when he was hired earlier this year.

“We’re going to work tirelessly to recover from the situation,” Atkinson promised the crowd.

Most of the questions revolved around whether the art, music and gym classes would be returned to the elementary schools, to which Atkinson said was dependent on the district receiving additional funding. Although some of the elementary buildings do have a full-time teacher in one of those programs, none of them have teachers for them all.

Banks said the administration is in the process of finding ways to get the schools back on track.

“It pains me to have the programs gone,” Banks said. “We want to bring back all of the programs, but financially we cannot. Are we doing everything we can to get them back? Certainly."

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