September 1, 2014

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After 2010 merger, Lorain High is squeezed into two buildings while new one is built

LORAIN — Two years after the merger of Admiral King and Southview high schools into Lorain High School, Lorain’s high school students are being asked to adapt and achieve at new homes.

For the next four years, 10th-, 11th- and 12th-graders will attend the former Southview High School at 2270 E. 42nd St., renamed Lorain High School. Ninth-graders will attend the former Southview Middle School about a half-mile away at 2321 Fairless Drive, renamed the Lorain High School Annex.

The move is due to construction of the new $73 million Lorain High School at 2600 Ashland Ave. where the old Lorain High School is being demolished. Lorain Schools leaders felt building in place would have been too costly and disruptive. They hope to open the building in August 2016.

The new building is being billed as state of the art, but most students in the temporary buildings will have graduated by the time it opens. Early student reviews about the main building are mixed.

For some former Southview High students, the move means a shorter commute, but the 190,674-square-foot building, which opened in 1969, is substantially smaller than the 239,000-square-foot Ashland Avenue building. Between 1,200 and 1,300 students attend the main building, with about 560 students at the 89,000-square-foot annex, which opened last year. The main building has about 135 staff with some 30 staff at the annex.

The smaller main building means larger class sizes. In teacher Dan Abraham’s criminal justice class in the main building Wednesday, there were 33 students. In the last school year, the student-to-teacher ratio in the ninth through 12th grades was between 28 and 30 to one.

Among Abraham’s students was senior Louis Cheers. Cheers said the class size was similar to the sizes of English, history and math classes he attends, but it hasn’t made learning harder. “It’s just louder,” he said.

Student Luis Conde said fellow students have complained about the smaller building and larger class sizes. However, seniors Kayla Lurry and Mari Otero said the building doesn’t seem smaller to them because there are no ninth-graders.

Lurry, who attended Southview High as a freshman, said she was initially upset with having to move again but has adjusted and hasn’t heard any complaints from fellow students.

“We’re just kind of all fine with it,” she said.

Principal Diane Conibear said she likes the air conditioning in the temporary schools, which the old building lacked, and finds the smaller buildings easier to manage. About $40,000 was spent on mold removal and roof repairs to the main building prior to the start of the school year last month.

Some staff work in both the annex and main building, but students don’t attend both buildings except for school functions or extracurricular activities. Conibear said she didn’t want students walking between buildings. “I’m big on safety,” she said.

The Credit Recovery Academy, a program for academically struggling students, is also housed in the annex, although Conibear said there is little interaction between ninth-graders and academy students because they are in separate parts of the annex and have different schedules. Academy Principal Nikole Davis said the transition has gone well.

“Of course there are always going to be issues, let’s be honest, but the thing about it is we’ve just got to work through them,” she said. “It’s the first year, and we’ve got to be solutions-oriented.”

Assistant Principal Adam Brezovsky, who helps Conibear run the annex, said there are some advantages to segregating the ninth-graders. He said the separation allows them to develop camaraderie without the pressure of trying to impress older students.

“It gives them a chance to really get to know the people they are going to be graduating with in four years,” he said.

Tim Williams, school board president, said Conibear and her staff deserve credit for making the transition with significantly less personnel than during the 2010 merger. The latest move came after the board laid off 182 employees districtwide to cut about $7.3 million of a projected $12 million deficit.

“Folks had to really step up,” Williams said. “They did a spectacular job.”

Contact Evan Goodenow at 329-7129 or egoodenow@chroniclet.com.