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."
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.
"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."
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