Franklin parents are told the Kent school will close

By Jeremy Nobile and Kyle McDonald Staff Writers and Roger J. Di Paolo | Editor Published:

Jill Fankhauser's son, a third-grade student at Franklin Elementary School, was distraught when he learned his school will shut down at the end of the academic year.

"That's just how much the school means to him," said the Kent mother. "He was upset."

Fankhauser said her family learned Franklin Elementary is slated for closure via an automated "robo call" from Principal Todd Poole that went out Wednesday night to the parents of an estimated 192 students enrolled there in kindergarten through fifth grade.

"(On) Jan. 28 (Tuesday) ... Action was taken to close Franklin Elementary at the end of the school year," said Poole in the message, referencing a decision by the Kent Board of Education. "Details will be shared with parents as they become available. I know that this comes as a shock to many, and it is not easy."

Although board members Rebekah Wright Kulis, Marlene Dorsey, Janet Rusnack and Superintendent Joe Giancola recently said that one of the Kent district's five elementary schools could be shut down as one of several cost-cutting measures, each told the Record-Courier a decision on which one had not yet been made.

However, Wright Kulis, the board's chairwoman, said Thursday the board approved closing two buildings. In addition to Franklin, the former Central School location also will be closed.

"The vote on Tuesday was specific to Franklin and Central," Wright Kulis said.

The Central School building on North Mantua Street ceased being an elementary school when Davey Elementary School opened in 2000, but is utilized by other programs.

"This was not a school full of children," Wright Kulis said, regarding Central School.

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Central School houses the Kent Theodore Roosevelt High School Bridges Academy, while the rest of the building is leased to other educational, non-competing agencies, Wright Kulis said.

School officials cited a 25 percent decline in enrollment in Kent over the past 20 years and the cost savings that would result if one of the elementary schools were closed.

"There was a detailed analysis of the costs of each school provided to the board members (Tuesday), and this has been an ongoing thing," Wright Kulis said. "This is not a knee-jerk reaction ... How we use our physical resources have been part of those dialogues all along."

Wright Kulis said that the district has managed to save millions of dollars through six annual, $1 million cost-saving initiatives.

"We have been very forthcoming about how each of those have rolled out," she said. "We have saved millions of dollars. That need continues as our income continues to be stagnant or decline."

On Wednesday, Giancola said the community would be part of any discussion to close a school.

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

Poole declined to comment Thursday. He said all questions should be directed to the school board and Giancola.

Giancola, however, did not respond to a request for comment Thursday.

In addition to closing Franklin Elementary and Central School, credible sources indicated that other cost-saving measures are under discussion, including closing the swimming pool at Theodore Roosevelt High School, which has been in operation since 1977.

Franklin Elementary, located at 6662 S.R. 43, north of the Kent city limits, originally housed the Franklin Township School, which was a separate school district. The original building opened in 1922, and additions to the structure were built in the 1950s. The Franklin district was absorbed by the Kent city district in 1959.

The Kent district has not closed a school since Emma Williard Elementary School in Brady Lake ceased operation in 1978. Like Franklin, Brady Lake was a separate district until it joined Kent.

Fankhauser and other parents in the Kent school district have formed a private committee to examine possible options to keep Franklin open. Anyone interested in that committee can contact Fankhauser at 330-858-1816.

"I'm hoping (the school board is) willing to take input from the community," she said. "I think that before they make a big decision like this, they should definitely get the opinions of the people it would affect. We're hopeful they'll reconsider their actions."

"Tradition, values, community and trust are the very foundation of our school," said Holly Melin, who has children in the second and third grades in Franklin. "The decision of this magnitude without first prior having our community involvement and discussion degrades the very foundation of trust."

Todd Perkins, who has a fourth-grader enrolled at Franklin, said he was "blindsided" by Poole's message Wednesday.

"We were shocked," he said. "When the levy was going up last year, nothing was ever mentioned about the school being financially strapped. ... with all these years of all these levies passing, how can the district be in a financial bind?"

Voters approved an 8.9-mill continuing levy in May 2013 estimated to raise $4.25 million per year in new funds.

"We were at a crossroads financially to keep our excellent programming without making cuts that would hurt the students, and this levy helped us through the crossroads so that our students can maintain all of the programs that they have," said Giancola following the levy's passage in May.

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  • Welcome to the world of Kent School District lies and half truths. I wish some of you would have joined me at board meetings last spring to hear the baloney spread by the board members and administrators about the real need for the huge levy. First of all to anyone that will be attending ANY board meetings in the future please remember the official Kent City School District rules. You MUST submit all questions 2 weeks in advance to the superintendents offices. That is their rules! Then the superintendent reserves the right to answer your questions in writing ( to be able to answer all questions clearly!!!, that is what they tell you)  and hand them to you at the meeting. No discussions, no other questions, no comments from the tax payer peanut gallery. They really don't want you there, and you certainly should not ask questions. My first board meeting a few years back I heard the term "Unincumbered overage of 21.0 million dollars for the fiscal year ending...My hand flew up and I asked what was an "unincumbered overage" it sounded like a surplus to me....That's when I first heard the rule about asking questions.... AND it was NOT A SURPLUS! This past fiscal year unincumbered overage was 18.6 million ( unspent funds, without a budget item attached to the dollar amounts, that is how they describe unincumbered overage) and yet we were asked for a huge levy increase. Where is all the money going?? I cannot answer this except 85% of all money goes to salary, wages and benefits of our faculty, staff and administrators. (They go to hospitals, emergency rooms, doctors visits, dentists visits, orthodontal visits, and get prescriptions all at 0 co pay and 0 deductible. All for 200.00 per employee per month! No Obamacare care fears here!)   I went to several meetings in the spring and started hearing about student safety, possible busing changes, all that we all heard from this superintendent and board to get the levy passed. I questioned them about our lower enrollment ( we are at 2990 of our own kids and 300+ open enrollment kids now, thats where they half truth us about our enrollment being 3300, our real enrollment is less than 3000 students! ) the perks the administrators get of FREE retirement, yep, they don't pay a penny into their retirement accounts we the taxpayer pick it up for them!, about the thousands of dollars we pay two guys from Wright State that past superintendent Marc Crail brought in and Giancola continues, to consult on how to get our levies passed the unsuspecting taxpayers, and on and on as to the real Kent School District performance and expenditures.

    We really need to face reality.  We need to educate our own students ONLY, end open enrollment NOW. If parents want their kids to get a Kent education make them move here and pay the taxes we have to pay to educate their children here. Make them move here and improve our community. With over 300 open enrollment children from all over two counties we are paying alot of extra money to educate other peoples kids. The state of Ohio gives our district about 5,800 dollars per open enrollment pupil, with the newest budget proposals we are spending over 16,000 dollars per student. So it is costing us over 10,000 dollars per open enrollment student to finish paying for these kids to attend our schools. These kids play on our sports teams ( hockey alone over 2/3 of the team is from other school districts) and take positions away from our own kids in football and basketball, heck in 2013 our Senior Man of the Year was from Ravenna! His parents did not pay one dollar of taxes to have their son attend our schools, participate on our athletic teams and then be named our man of the year! Wasn't one our own good enough to be our man of the year? Don't misunderstand me, he is a great kid, from a great Kent family, but they now live in Ravenna to avoid our taxes! End open enrollment, bring families back to Kent to share in the costs of their kids education. We have at best a mediocre school district with our past years being our best. Now we are burdened with too many employees and administrators and not enough kids! This board is looking for answers to solve the problems they have created, too high of taxes for young families to live here. Closing Franklin and Central might be the appropriate steps, closing the pool, nonsense,  I have heard they want to privatize busing also, I hope not, maybe listening to our current superintendent and board with little or no clue as to what is happening around them is a our real concern. Looking for leadership with answers other than we need more money routine might be our best hope for our future.

  • I.  I attended a school levy campaign meeting last spring.  I recall clearly hearing that even if the levy passed, due to the extent of the state funding cuts and to be financially prudent,  the district would need to continue to consider cost-savings.

    II.  Secondly, I attended and participated in most of the 5 year strategic planning meetings.  Most of which were open to the public.  The schools were encouraging anyone to participate.  The facilities committee regularly discussed the responsibility of the district to continually assess the appropriate facitlity needs.  I qoute from my copy of the final draft of  The Kent City Schools 5 year Strategic Plan:

    "A.  Facilities

    Goal 3:  Explore all options for uses of current facilities

    Objective 5.  Evaluate elementary facility needs in light of enrollment trends".

    People are being critical of the district not being trustworthy.  Based on my experiences and what I have shared here, it seems to me the district is following through on exactly what it said it was going to do in both the levy campaign and the 5 year strategic plan.  I appreciate the Kent City Schools acting in a fiscally responsible manner and inviting the community to participate in the 5 year strategic plan.

     

     

  • While this announcement has been handled poorly, reading ohioh111b11y's comments suggests a lack of understanding of the issue. City government and leaders have nothing at all to do with the school system, so I don't quite understand the shot at the City Manager. That being said, focusing on the issue of the school building closing after the community's overwhelming support last May speaks to the question of planning. Was this closing ever suggested in the strategic plan of the district? If not, than why have startegic planning? Didn't our board suggest replacing that school with a new one not so many years ago?

    I think there are a lot of questions that need to be answered to restore credibility between the community and board.

  • " At one point, the city proposed putting a community pool on the property purchased on Fairchild that currently is being used as soccer fields."

    That land was donated to the city specifically as the site of a future recreation center, which would likely include a pool of some sorts (not necessarily a competition pool, though), among other things. Whether or not the Roosevelt pool is open really has no effect on that. A new rec center, while needed, isn't likely anytime soon as it would have to be approved by voters. I don't see that happening anytime soon! The last time the city tried to pass it, the issue failed, mostly because it was up at the same time as a fire levy. 

  • While I do not support the actions by the board, especially so soon after yet another levy passage here, there won't be any "shoe-horning" of Franklin students into another elementary school or schools. In reality, the district could simply send all Franklin students to Walls and there would be room. Walls has about 200 students, so the combined schools wouldn't even have 400 total. Multiple rooms are empty there. Most likely, some will go to Walls and others Davey, both of which have room. As recently as the mid 1990s, Walls had close to 500 kids in the exact same building as today. 

    I totally agree about people feeling priced out of living here. In the last year we've passed a property tax hike (and Kent's property taxes are already among the highest in the area), an income tax hike, and pay-to-park will soon be arriving downtown again. Kent and Franklin Township's populations are bigger than they have ever been but the school enrollment is dropping. I also agree about the pool. If it's closed, what becomes of that space? Just a big empty albatross at Roosevelt?

  • I find this disturbing for several reasons.  I am questioning the need for the recent levy since so many closures are planned.  I understand that the taxes we pay do support our excellent schools but perhaps the part of the reason enrollment numbers are down is becasue many families simply cannot afford to live in Kent? I live in an average Kent neighborhood and have an average clerical job. My current property taxes are more than 10% of my gross annual salary.  Where are the Franklin students and Roosevelt students at Central going to be shoe-horned in?  And closing the pool will result in the end of the Rough Roder swim and dive teams, in addition to affecting the schools that current pay to use our pool.  I was part of the very first swim team at Roosevelt and I remember swimming around columns in the Wills gym pool and having practice at the KSU Memorial pool at 4 A.M. as that was the only open pool time we could get.  I believe the community also utilies the Roosevelt pool which brings up another question.  At one point, the city proposed putting a community pool on the property purchased on Fairchild that currently is being used as soccer fields.  As a resident of that neighborhood, the last thing most of us want is the traffic and noise from opening up our street.      

  • Let the lies begin from the school board. Time to do a recall of the passage of the levy and reject it.

  • Now it's two buildings : )  " In addition to Franklin, the former Central School location also will be closed.

    "The vote on Tuesday was specific to Franklin and Central," Wright Kulis said."   And possibly the Swimming Pool !

    Looks like the School System is shutting down.  Makes me wonder what all those NEW TAXES are for?  How many people will lose their jobs?

    For everyone that voted FOR the tax Levy, please dont think this was ever about the Children.

    Who in the City will be retiring or leaving at the end of this college and school year?

    Will our city manager be moving on soon ...in the next year or so?

    Plan it, scare the people, tax them, build it, get out of Dodge.