Mayor Weiss' Statement Regarding Shaker Schools Long-Term Facilities Plan
June 7, 2023
Recently, the Shaker Heights Board of Education unanimously voted to approve a Long-Term Master Facilities Plan for the School District. In short, this vote is the first step in the School Board’s plan to place an issue on the ballot in November seeking voter approval of funding for the first phase of the modernization of our aging school buildings.
I support this Facilities Plan and I urge Shaker residents to do the same.
The District’s Long-Term Master Facilities Plan includes two phases or “Segments.” Segment 1 calls for:
- The renovation of the former Ludlow Elementary School to accommodate an expanded Pre-Kindergarten program.
- The renovation and expansion of Woodbury as a “middle years” building for Grades 6-8.
- The renovation of four current K-through-Grade 4 elementary school buildings – Boulevard, Lomond, Mercer and Onaway – to modernize these buildings and to accommodate Grade 5.
- Building an addition to Fernway to include Grade 5.
- The eventual elimination of the current Middle School building once it is no longer needed to temporarily house students to accommodate the other contemplated school renovations.
Segment 2, addressing the High School, will be addressed at a future date.
School Board members and District administrators have been working for the past two years to develop this Long-Term Master Facilities Plan, with input from the community and key stakeholders. A comprehensive plan such as this is inherently complex and will take a number of years to implement. The Facilities Plan also will require funding to be contributed by Shaker Heights taxpayers along with significant funding provided by the State of Ohio.
Over the coming weeks and months, the School District will be providing more details regarding the benefits, costs and financing of the Facilities Plan. In the meantime, I wanted to comment on some of the reasons I support this Facilities Plan.
First, along with a continuing focus on academic excellence, the Facilities Plan will help keep the Shaker Schools competitive by both creating more modern learning spaces and providing a safer and more secure environment for learning.
Second, there is the potential for more and better shared-use of school facilities for community use including City recreational programming. In addition, once the current Middle School is no longer needed as temporary classroom space, it is expected that the Middle School will be razed. This would provide an opportunity for operational cost savings and this site will become available for alternative community use. Community uses might include, for example, continued use for athletic fields, a park, multi-purpose paths, and other future outdoor and perhaps indoor recreational facilities, all of which would benefit both the schools and the entire community.
Third, this Facilities Plan would expand access to the Schools’ Pre-Kindergarten program, which research shows is one of the most important predictors of future educational success for students. And the reopening of the former Ludlow Elementary School for Pre-K will further strengthen the Ludlow neighborhood.
Fourth, the funding of Segments 1 and 2 will be separately voted on by taxpayers with the funding of Segment 1 phased in over the construction period, which could be as long as 10 years. Of key importance, the State of Ohio through its Ohio Facilities Construction Commission (OFCC) will pay up to 37% of all eligible project costs, the highest level for which the Shaker Schools have ever been eligible. This translates into an approximately $47 million contribution by the OFCC to the Segment 1 school renovations, with additional OFCC funding in the future for Segment 2.
Fifth, the Schools and the City are in discussions to move the Bus Depot on Lee Road to an alternate location, which once identified, will make way for the redevelopment of a key parcel of property in the “Lee Road Action Plan.” The goals of the Lee Road Action Plan are to revitalize the Lee Road commercial district from Van Aken Boulevard to Scottsdale Road and thereby expand our tax base, better connect our community and strengthen the adjoining neighborhoods.
Overall, I believe the improvements proposed in the Facilities Plan are good for Shaker students and educators and, in the larger picture, are in the best interest of the Shaker Heights community. The City’s recent Community Attitude Survey re-confirmed that one of the most important reasons residents continue to choose and remain in Shaker Heights is for our public schools, and so we must continue to modernize our facilities to remain competitive.
In closing, I would like to point out that, while this Facilities Plan carries increased costs for taxpayers, rejecting this Plan also has costs, as the District will have to continue to address school repairs on a piecemeal basis, without the benefit of a long-term plan or the considerable OFCC funding that comes with it.
For these reasons, I hope that you will join me in supporting the School District’s Long-Term Master Facilities Plan.