Do not close Arthur Road Elementary School.
Since superintendent Regano announced his proposal to potentially close Arthur Road, I have started doing some research. What I have found concerns me on many levels. While I would hope that our children's best interest is the number one thing being thought of as we move forward with recommendations on a school closing, I am finding that the financial part of it seems to be the first priority. More upsetting yet, some information that is being disseminated and used to make the Arthur Road school closing recommendation is not quite accurate. Misinformation and lack of transparency, as well as a general ambivalence to the392 children at Arthur Road, has led me to compile this information.
I believe that the Board of Education, the district, and the superintendent can and should attempt to affect the least amount of children possible while still making a sound business decision. We all understand that, in part, there is a business side of a school district. We are also aware that enrollment in Solon schools has been down the last couple years. The community is maturing and there is little vacant land available as was mentioned by Mr. Regano. However, the economy has started to trend in the positive and home sales in Solon have started to pick up. The newest school rankings of #3 in the state and #1 in Northeast Ohio on the State of Ohio School Report Card will potentially have an extremely positive affect on enrollment. Moreover, after a phone conversation with Joe Regano, the district is NOT in financial urgency. So, there is confusion as to why we are revisiting these talks of redistricting and closing a school now. It has been stated, according to the Facilities Action Team in 2011, that if kindergarten enrollment districtwide is at 275 or fewer students then this would be the trigger point for reopening this action plan. Just for clarification sake, some committee members and public believed that reopening a dialog about potential solutions to the enrollment issue meant more meetings/discussions not to immediately recommend a school closing.
How did we get to a school closing? And how did we get to Arthur Road as the school to close? It has been suggested that the Facilities Action Team committee from 2011 never recommended a particular school to close.
Enrollment numbers- While it is accurate to say that the current kindergarten class is not at the 275 mark, the number of 259 that is being presented to the public doesn't seem to be accurate either. Thereis some confusion and misinformation about the kindergarten enrollment numbers. The number given from superintendent Regano's office is 259 for kindergarten enrollment this year. This number is the one and only reason we are revisiting the school closing/rezoning issue. The trigger point set by the committee in 2010/2011 was 275 or fewer kindergarten enrollment for a 2 year cycle. However, if you get kindergarten enrollment numbers from the respective elementary schools, they do not add up to this 259 number that the Board of Ed is basing their recommendations on...rather the number is higher. Moreover, each elementary school was forthcoming with the kindergarten enrollment at their school except for Parkside. We were not able to obtain exact numbers from the school itself. We only have the Parkside enrollment numbers from the Board of Education. From our calculations and the information below, the kindergarten enrollment is 262 to date. This number does not match the number that is being shared with the public. Again, there are concerns about misinformation. Are we going to make these very important decisions that affect our children with inaccurate kindergarten enrollment numbers? Isit a rash decision to discuss school closings because of missing this trigger point by 13 students? What if kindergarten enrollment is even more than we think? And why does the number of 259 from the superintendents office, the one being disseminated to the public, not match the numbers being given from each respective elementary school? Would it be more advantageous to continue to collect more data than displace an entire school full of children based on a questionable enrollment number?
Financials- Again, there seems to be some confusion and lack of transparency on this issue. Specific financial information about cost savings of closing Arthur Road were never given at the first board meeting on September 30, 2014. Superintendent Regano lists three items under 'Savings' from his presentation: 1. As outlined, this is not a purely dollars-and-cents decision.
2. However, we must remain accountable to the entire community, including the 65% that does not have children in the schools. 3. Real gains will come in the more efficient distribution of services to students.Continued inquiries into the financial information have been met with the same response from both Joe Regano and Tammy Strom- "Additional financial data regarding the savings will be presented at theNovember 17thmeeting." As taxpayers, parents and the general public of Solon, how can we accept decisions of such magnitude being made for us and our children without knowing specific financial information. How much is the district going to save by closing one of the most functioning elementary schools and displacing our 392 children?Currently, the savings per year in the district is around $500,000 by artificially adjusting enrollment and the displacement of students from their home school, according to Mr. Regano. Could we continue this approach as a possible solution and revisit a potential school closing further down the road? Superintendent Regano does list this as a possible solution from his presentation to the school board on September 30, 2014.Again, as stated before, the district is not in financial urgency. In talks with Mr. Regano, it was made clear that after the initial one time savings of closing a school (which is quite interesting because the school is technically not closing, just being repurposed) the savings per year would be about the same. Again, why could we not continue this practice of artificially adjusting enrollment for the cost savings?
There are four mitigating factors for choosing Arthur Road as the school to close. Again, it is quite alarming at the lack of transparency in regard to these four reasons. Below are the four reasons given in Superintendent Regano's proposal. The comments in bold and underlined are in direct rebuttal to these reasons.
-Drainage issues.Noone at Arthur Roadis aware of drainage issues. Moreover, after a conversation with Tammy Strom, there are no current issues with drainage at Arthur Road per say. There COULD be in the future on the west side of the building but they just renovated this area 2 years ago. Parkside, however, does have drainage issues currently according to Fred Bolton.
-Heating and cooling issues.Arthur Road does not have air conditioning. Parkside does have air. However, Roxbury and Lewis do not have air conditioning either. After a conversation with Joe Regano, there are NO plans to update Roxbury and Lewis with air conditioning.
-The multi-level building creates challenges instructionally, especially the inability to house an Intensive Resource room for special education students. This is definitely a concern with any building that is a multi-level structure. Could we make improvements to the school to allow for these children to attend? According to Tammy Strom, they have been at Arthur Road in the past. Would there be funds available to make improvements for these children to come back? Somehow, we are talking about enough available funds to double-bus children for the transitional period between the potential Arthur Road closing and enrollment in a new school which the Superintendent mentioned at the board meeting in September and an Arthur Road PTA meeting in September. Could we redirect these funds to improve the building and make it more handicap accessible?
-The building could be easily segmented for additional uses in the future. Thisseems to be the number one reason that Arthur Road has been chosen as the school to close. As mentioned by Mr. Regano,there would be greater revenue generated by using sections of the building in different capacities. We are not in financial crisis. Choosing to affect 392 children for financial gain does not seem to be putting the children as a first priority.
Recommendations- Do not close Arthur Road. Continue as status quo. Re-engage a Facilities Action Team to re-evaluate the necessary data for potential consolidation or a school closing. If school capacity and enrollment continues to be an issue, reinvestigate the most appropriate school to close based on what is best for the children.
There is no good choice when making a recommendation that a school should close. Children will always be affected. One would hope that in making changes of this magnitude the good would eventually outweigh the issues it causes to get to the end result. Unfortunately, so far it doesn't look like this is happening for our children.
Superintendent Regano has done great things for this district since coming on board in 1987. Solon schools are the top in Cleveland and Northeast Ohio. Many, like my family, specifically choose Solon because of the reputation of Solon schools. As parents, we want the best for our children. Closing Arthur Road is not the best for our children. It seems financials are being put before our children's best interest. Thelack of transparency and misinformation being giving to the parents/children/public is unacceptable. We cannot make important decisions like closing an entire school without more accurate information. We owe it to the current 392 children that are being told they can no longer call Arthur Road their elementary school.