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Kent district intends to close an elementary school this year

By Jeremy Nobile | Staff Writer Published: January 30, 2014 4:00 AM
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The Kent City School District plans to close one of its elementary schools by the 2014-15 academic year.

However, which school will be closed, what impact that possibly could have on students and faculty, and how much the closure would save the district are all factors Board of Education members said are being worked through.

The board voted to reduce Kent's number of working elementary schools from five to four on Monday after reviewing decreasing enrollment figures and each building's operational costs.

"As is always the case with this board and this team of administrators, decisions are made with detailed and deliberate analysis, as well as careful consideration of community impact, financial stewardship, and, foremost, what is best for our children," said Rebekah Wright Kulis, chair of the Kent Board of Education. "As we move through the process of right-sizing this district, these issues will continue to be at the forefront of our deliberation."

Kulis said determining that right size is a "must."

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Board member Janet Rusnack agreed, calling the move a "fiscally responsible" decision.

"I think (closing a school) is something that has to be done because our enrollment has gone down," she said. "Four buildings can do what we're using five for now. You have to tighten your belt all the time. And right now, the numbers are such that it doesn't support the extra school."

Regarding which school may be closed, Superintendent Joseph Giancola said "all the buildings are under consideration," but one hasn't been chosen yet.

Davey, Franklin, Holden, Loncoy and Walls schools are the district's five elementaries.

Whatever decision is made, Giancola said the community will be a part of that discussion.

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"We do have ideas we presented," Giancola said, "but I still need to talk with more people in the community."

Other sources, however, have indicated that Franklin Elementary School, located on S.R. 43, is the building most likely to be closed.

Franklin Principal Todd Poole declined to comment on the issue Wednesday night.

Giancola said the student enrollment in Kent schools has dropped 25 percent in the past 20 years, from about 4,400 children in 1993 to 3,300 in 2013.

He said one reason for the decrease could possibly be issues with housing for young families whose children would populate the schools.

"The greatest reason that anyone could speculate was that much of our mid-priced family housing is often put on the market and bought up by landlords before startup or young families can purchase midsize housing," Giancola said.

It's unclear whether the reduction in schools could equate to layoffs.

Giancola said coming statewide changes to teacher pensions may give some veteran teachers an incentive to retire in the next couple years, reducing the overall staff through attrition. He noted that redistricting children in schools following a closure wouldn't "automatically" mean fewer teachers would be needed.

Rusnack said she's hopeful layoffs can be avoided.

"(Closing a school) would be a significant cost savings," Rusnack said. "Hopefully, we'll have enough people retiring that will help take care of the people who will be at whatever school gets closed to either retire or be moved to another school."

The last building shut down in the Kent school district was the Emma Williard Elementary school, which was built in 1923 and closed in 1978. Located in Brady Lake, that building was acquired when the Franklin Local School and Brady Lake School districts merged with the Kent district in 1959.

Davey Elementary School, built in 1922, is Kent's oldest elementary building, but that school was renovated after the passage of a 1996 bond issue. Franklin Elementary, which has not been renovated and was also built in the mid '20s, is the district's second-oldest building.

Holden and Longcoy were built in the mid '60s, while Walls was built in the '70s.

"We don't know exactly what we're doing yet," Rusnack said. "We know we don't like it. But we all agreed that we needed to close a school. It's one of those things nobody wants to do, but it has to be done."

Contact this reporter at 330-298-1126 or jnobile@recordpub.com

Facebook: Jeremy Nobile, Record-Courier

Twitter: @jnobile_RPC

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2Jeter2 Jan 30, 2014 9:13 PM

Good, now maybe they can finally offer Kent kids all day Kindergarten at no charge like the rest of portage county. Kent pays some of the highest school taxes in the county and still no full day K. They are putting themselves in a position to build new schools. Guarantee in the next three years we are going to hear how antiquated and unsafe the buildings are and we will be forking out more money in taxes to rebuild THREE buildings. Just wait...it is coming. My pay check keeps getting smaller and smaller so something has to give. All that is going to be left in Kent is places to eat and drink, a university, and rental properties. 

ohioh111b111y Jan 30, 2014 1:08 PM

wow!  This certainly is surprising news for taxpayers.  I wonder how long the Board has known it was going to shut down a building.... how long BEFORE they asked for the extra monies?  More monies- less schools. hmmm.  Kent has all kinds of tricks up their sleeves.

I've long thought that the powers- that- be in Kent are actually TRYING to get rid of families-young families specifically- to make Kent a College Town.

"We don't know exactly what we're doing yet," Rusnack said..... truer words were never spoken.



49tons Jan 30, 2014 9:53 AM

I am disgusted with the actions of the Board.  Learned of this last night through a recorded message from the Prinicpal at Franklin, where my child attends.  Mr. Poole sounded distraught, and expressed this news in a manner that gave the impression that the Board has already decided to close Franklin, contrary to what is reported in this article.

I hope that there is a vocal turnout at the Board's next meeting, to be held February 18, 2014 at 7 PM, at Franklin Elementary.  The parents of Franklin students need to make their voices heard loud and clear.  Shuttering the most effective elementary school in the district a year after asking for and receiving additional financial support from the community is reprehensible. 

Ring their phones off the hooks.  Four of the six Board members have publicly listed phone numbers.  Call the Board offices.  Make them listen.




user_23127 Jan 30, 2014 9:11 AM

This concept should have been considered before voters were convinced of the need for a 8.9 mil levy just last year!!!

Kim1229 Jan 30, 2014 8:45 AM

Unbelievable!  My son goes to Franklin, and is excelling at Frankin- this is just terrible!  Franklin is the reason we have stayed in Kent.  The small class sizes, dedicated teachers and the way our families pull together are what makes Franklin stand apart from the other schools and why it's a reason to fight for.  In closing Franklin, you are going to shoehorn kids into classrooms and compromise what you have worked so hard to create.  I don't believe for one minute that this is "what is best for our children" as stated above by Rebekah Wright Kulis, it sounds to me like all Kent wants is a bigger pocket book.  Funny thing is, if the board has been watching and analyzing for so long why wasn't anything mentioned before last years levy?  I could understand this if the levy failed.  Kent has the 5 year plan.  Kent voters passed the levy with confidence that this money would support ALL Kent city schools, there was no indication that any school would be closed.  Wish I would have known this then.  I feel extremely let down by the whole Kent City School District.

jrid Jan 30, 2014 7:47 AM

Having worked in all of the Kent Schools, Franklin makes the most sense to close from a facilities standpoint. While not in horrible shape, it is in the worst shape of the 5 and has an odd and somewhat confusing layout inside due to the additions on both sides. It is also completely inaccessible for anyone with physical limitations (3 levels, narrow staircases, no elevator). On top of that, outside the Riverbend neighborhood, most of Franklin's student body is already bused, so there would be little disruption as far as transportation goes. Walls, Holden, Davey, and Longcoy are all in the middle of residential neighborhoods. 

Some inaccuracies, however, are in the article regarding how old each building is: 

1. The oldest part of Franklin opened in 1922, just 5 days after the original part of what is now Davey Elementary School. The additions on both sides of Franklin were built in the 1950s.

2. Walls Elementary opened in 1966, the year after Holden (1965). A small addition was built at Walls in the early 1970s

3. Longcoy Elementary opened in 1957. It has had additions built in the mid 1960s and mid 1980s