December 21, 2014

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Lorain superintendent details proposed school realignment plan

LORAIN — Balanced class sizes and better teacher coordination to improve learning are the goals of a school realignment planned for August.

The proposed realignment was outlined by Superintendent Tom Tucker at Thursday’s Board of Education meeting. It is partially a response to Lorain’s declining population.

“If you look at our demographics of where people live and where students live, it’s not necessarily where our school buildings are,” Tucker told board members. “We have to adapt to that.”

Tucker’s plan calls for pairing schools near one another and reducing the average student busing distance from about two miles to 1.5 miles or one mile. Parents with children in different schools can rely on buses rather than making an extra trip, Tucker said.

If approved, there would be five preschool through second-grade schools and five third- through fifth-grade schools. There would be three sixth- through eighth-grade middle schools.

The district operates 10 elementary schools, which are preschool or kindergarten through sixth grade. There are two seventh- and eighth-grade middle schools, the Lorain High School annex, which houses ninth-graders, and the temporary Lorain High School for 10th- through 12th-graders. A new high school is scheduled to open for the 2016-17 school year.

Tucker said the realignment model has made teaching easier and more effective in other Ohio school districts by putting more students with similar needs together. “There’s power in collaboration, and there’s power in (teachers) sharing what’s going on in their classrooms with each other,” he said.

The school district is seeking parental input through online and paper surveys. The surveys, which ask a variety of questions about the transition, are due March 14. View the online survey here

Board President Tim Williams stressed the proposed changes are more about learning than logistics.

“It’s a significant move that will ultimately increase child learning,” he said. “When you can group kids in ways that allow you more flexibility, it’s a real advantage.”

In other business:

Martha Smith, Bond Oversight Committee chairwoman, delivered her annual report on money from bonds sold for the 14-building, $208 million school construction project that began in 2002. The high school is the last building to be constructed.

Interest of nearly $10.5 million will help pay for nearly $6 million in costs for extra space at the new high school, which state taxpayers aren’t paying for because the Ohio Department of Education predicts it won’t be needed to meet population estimates. State taxpayers are paying for 81 percent of the $74 million project. The interest also will pay for the nearly $2.2 million auditorium which local taxpayers are paying for.

Smith stressed that state law forbids the bond money from being spent on operating costs for new schools once they open. She said the district has done an “exemplary job” in managing the construction money. “The project still remains in good financial condition given the number of buildings constructed and demolitions completed,” Smith said.

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