Columbus City Schools administrators recommend closing seven schools this summer: Brookhaven and Independence high schools, a middle school and four elementary schools. The closures would affect nearly 2,500 students. Superintendent Dan Good said he plans to request a special board meeting on Tuesday to discuss it. The list was put together by a team led by facilities chief Carole Olshavsky, using criteria set by district policy.
Columbus City Schools would close two high schools and five lower schools, forcing the transfer of more than 2,500 students, under a plan to be presented to the school board at a special meeting on Tuesday.
The list includes Brookhaven High School in North Linden and Independence High on the Far East Side.
The district has closed middle and elementary schools over the past decade, but this would mark the first time in almost 32 years that it closes a high school. Central High, the current site of COSI Columbus, was the last one closed, in 1982.
Also on the chopping block are Monroe Middle School and Arlington Park, Fifth Avenue, Maybury and Siebert elementary schools.
The school board is likely to decide in March which buildings to close after holding at least two public hearings on the plan, said Gary Baker, the board president.
“The board will consider all of that all very carefully, recognizing that this is a very difficult process,” he said yesterday.
Emmanuel Remy, the president of the Northland Community Council, said he’s not surprised that Brookhaven is on the list. “The district has a large amount of infrastructure that is probably overkill to the student population, so there has to be some choices made,” Remy said.
Brookhaven has a capacity of 1,145 students, but only 521 attend the school in North Linden. If the school is closed, its students will be assigned to Mifflin High School. Students at Brookhaven who opted to attend from other high-school attendance areas also will go to Mifflin, if space is available, but could be required to return to their assigned schools.
All lower-level schools that feed Brookhaven also would be assigned to Mifflin, with the exception of Como Elementary, which would feed Whetstone High School.
“I think the biggest concern I have is the large amount of real estate that it leaves vacated,” Remy said, noting that nearby Clinton Middle School recently closed. “It leaves a gaping big hole in the Northland area.”
Brookhaven was on a list to potentially be closed or consolidated in 2011, but officials opted to keep it open, citing a lack of capacity at other schools in the area.
Independence High School on the Far East Side — east of I-270 — has a capacity of 1,063 students but has 635 enrolled.
“I think it’s a blow,” said DeLana Russell, who is the cheerleading coach at Independence, vice president of the school’s athletic booster club and mother of two seniors.
“In the past, the school went through some negative times, but it is on the right track now,” she said. “The teachers are passionate about the children and really care about giving them what they need to be successful.”
All schools that feed into Independence would instead feed into Walnut Ridge, with the exception of Maybury Elementary, which also would close.
Russell’s daughter, 18-year-old Imani Lowery, said she had no idea that Independence could be closed until yesterday.
“It’s shocking,” she said. “I don’t like it. Independence is Independence. It’s not Walnut Ridge. We’re supposed to be rivals in athletics. Independence has its own spirit.”
The Dispatch requested a memo that detailed the school-closing plan earlier in the week under the Ohio Public Records Act. The district released the memo, which administrators sent to Superintendent Dan Good on Jan. 27, yesterday afternoon.
Good said he plans to request a special board meeting on Tuesday to discuss it.
The method used to select the schools took into consideration building usage, capacity, condition and enrollment, the memo said. Board policy requires the district to regularly review buildings to see if any should be closed. The memo did not indicate how much money would be saved or how teachers and staff members would be affected.
“It’s the board’s duty to be as fiscally responsible as possible,” Baker said.
In the past, the district named a citizen-advisory committee to review school-closing recommendations, and district spokesman Jeff Warner said the district will convene such a committee before it makes decisions.
The district says it needs to cut $50 million from next school year’s budget, but the report doesn’t say that is the reason for the recommended closings.
The district is financially secure for nearly two more school years, but it will face a $200 million shortfall by the summer of 2018 — unless there is an infusion of more money, such as a voter-approved tax increase, according to its most-recent financial forecast.
Dispatch Reporters Jeb Phillips and Charlie Boss contributed to this story.