Heads up, this is a hyper local post about an issue facing my home neighborhood of Tremont. ?The Cleveland Municipal School District (CMSD) is planning to close 18 school buildings at the end of this school year, one of them, Tremont School, is in the heart of my hood, and in my county council District 7. ?More after the jump.
Closing schools in a shrinking city like Cleveland is a necessary evil. ?Cleveland simply is no longer big enough, and there are not enough school age children, to justify the cost of a school system whose physical plant was built out 100 years ago for a system expecting to service a population of 1 million. ?In a city of less than half a million, bleeding jobs and population, the survival of big buildings for big school populations simply cannot withstand economic and budget scrutiny.
Yet, to attract families and young professionals, schools within walking distance are a huge plus. ?Tremont is one of the few walkable, growing neighborhoods in Cleveland, and Tremont School, right in the center of a thriving arts, culture, and entertainment district, is a draw. ?Even with this, Tremont School only attracts a tiny percentage of kids who live within walking distance. ?Most students are bused in. ?So the choice facing CMSD, about Tremont School, is a tough one.
I’ve been asked my position on Saving Tremont School (here’s the Facebook group) by many people in the community. ?I’m seriously torn. ?I’m a single person with no kids, so I don’t have a personal stake. ?I do know some folks in Tremont who have kids attending Tremont School, and even more young families who will certainly send their kids to Tremont School when the time comes. ?But I also know that such a giant building, in its location, with its architectural value, could be an engine for economic development in Tremont once the school is closed.
Which begs the question – what’s CMSD’s plan for the building once it is closed?
The answer, I’m sad to say, is no answer. ?From the PD.
As for what to do with Willson School and other closed buildings, schools spokeswoman Angela Buford said Friday that Ohio law dictates how the school board handles those closed schools. The board is required to secure a building after the final classes, she said. It has up to a year to adopt a resolution that outlines the future of the building.
In fact, after talking with a few people who’ve posed just that question to CMSD, it’s clear to me that CMSD simply plans to board the building up. ?In response to a questioner at a recent meeting, CMSD officials even said not to worry, we’ll board that thing up so tight nothing will get into it.
That’s unacceptable. ?We are talking about a major, massive landmark smack in the middle of Cleveland’s premier neighborhood, and CMSD’s plan for it after closure is to board it up? ?Is anyone at CMSD even using their brain? ?A building of this size, in this location, boarded up for any length of time, will become a public nuisance almost immediately.
This is why, despite fully understanding why the school may need to close, I support Saving Tremont School. ?Unless CMSD can prove that this building will not become a public nuisance after closure, and that it will be immediately redeveloped via a transparent, public process, there is no good reason to close the school. ?A school that is a black hole of debt for the district, but still an operating school, is infinitely better than a giant boarded up building in the middle of Tremont. ?Period.
So I’ve begun asking some supportive lawyer friends of mine to help me research if public nuisance law (federal or state) can be used to enjoin closure of the school if CMSD decides to keep Tremont School on its closure list. ?It is unconscionable that a local governmental authority would affirmatively choose to create a massive public nuisance in a city’s premier neighborhood, a neighborhood that is a showpiece nationally. ?That this is happening in Cleveland, well….I guess I shouldn’t be surprised.
If CMSD decides to keep Tremont School on the closure list without a plan to immediately redevelop the building, Tremont residents should take all legal remedies necessary to prevent a warehouse sized nuisance being created in their neighborhood by their own government. ?And I will support that effort to the end.