The article in the June 29 issue of the Cleveland Jewish News about Beachwood City Schools presented only a limited picture of the district’s elementary consolidation project.
The proposal for Beachwood’s consideration is consolidation of three primary schools into a single pre-kindergarten through grade five elementary on the Fairmount School site. The plan calls for an addition to the current preschool and district office building. The community’s decision on this proposal is critical to the future of elementary education in Beachwood for the next half-century.
Maintaining the status quo is not an option with our elementary buildings. Built in 1959, Hilltop and Bryden schools rely on outdated and deteriorating mechanical systems. Their design did not contemplate the needs of 21st-century education. At nearly 60 years of age, neither continual preventive maintenance nor frequent costly repairs are feasible for much longer.
Beachwood schools commissioned a comprehensive study of these buildings that accounted for the replacement of the entire mechanical, electrical, plumbing, roofing and other building systems. The study also took into consideration renovations to enhance safety and security of the facility and ensure universal accessibility. These expensive renovations were estimated to cost at least $34.7 million and in the end, the footprints of the buildings would remain essentially the same.
On the other hand, consolidating the primary schools into a new addition to Fairmount School was estimated to cost $35.7 million. Spending the additional $1 million up front offers Beachwood residents significant opportunities that will pay dividends for decades to come:
• Collaboration across grades to allow flexible academic groupings and promote student leadership
• Streamline elementary initiatives pre-kindergarten through fifth grade
• Design adaptable, functional, bright classrooms and gathering spaces
• Specialize music, art and science classrooms
• Increase safety and security for students and staff
• Integrate educational technologies and the infrastructure to support them
Operational and financial opportunities
• Reduce operating expenses by $500,000 per year
• Prioritize energy efficient, eco-friendly building systems
• Unify school start and end times (K-5)
• Route buses and parent drop-off and pickup efficiently and safely
(A detailed study commissioned by the district determined school consolidation at the Fairmount site will not impact city traffic negatively with effective parking lot design, timed traffic lights and dedicated turn lanes along the Fairmount Boulevard median)
Hilltop and Bryden site opportunities
• Repurpose the Hilltop property as a park supporting the entire community’s youth recreational sports, as well as a playground, walking paths, picnic shelter, etc.
• Repurpose the Bryden site to be developed for new single-family homes. Beachwood has no new land available for homes to attract and retain families, a consistent theme with potential homebuyers.
Beachwood City Schools’ elementary consolidation plan is the more inspiring and prudent option for this community. In the coming months, we will continue design work on the proposed elementary addition and collaborate further with the city government. The district will continue to study potential uses of the Hilltop and Bryden properties and solicit the input of the community in doing so.
As a Beachwood resident and parent of Beachwood students, I appreciate the value this community consistently places on its kids’ education. The district will ask the community to demonstrate this again by supporting a May 2018 bond levy to implement the consolidation plan. We are committed to a transparent process educating voters about this critical decision. As it always has in the past, the Beachwood community must invest in itself to remain strong, unique and poised for a vibrant future.
Robert P. Hardis is superintendent of the Beachwood City Schools.