Thursday, November 11, 1999

Plan shuffles 15 schools

City's west and central areas affected

        Cincinnati Public Schools administrators on Wednesday proposed shuffling academic programs and enrollment at 15 schools that have about 7,000 students.

        The plan would close one school, consolidate two others and eliminate a magnet program.

        Administrators see the proposal, which involves schools in the central and western parts of the city, as evidence of their responsiveness to a public that has pleaded for more neighborhood schools.

        The changes are the final phase of a redistricting plan started in 1994 and will complete the district's shift from elementaries and middle schools to kindergarten-through-eighth-grade schools.

        Converting schools to K-8 helps alleviate discipline problems that mushroom in middle schools, administrators say.

        But some parents, surprised by the proposal's details Wednesday, repeated their complaint that administrators too often make major changes without their input.

        Some expressed weariness at the prospect of more changes in a district where schools' futures hang on the latest reform plan. In the past year alone, a facilities master plan, a school accountability plan requiring redesign of failing schools and redistricting have called into question the fates of many of the district's 77 schools.

        “This is just like something falling out of the sky unbeknownst to anybody and it affects everybody,” said Shirley Colbert, a West End resident who didn't know about plans to close Washburn Elementary, even though she heads its school decision-making committee.

        “We're getting wiped out by a system that is concerned about its bottom line, which belongs to the taxpayers anyway.”

        Frank Franklin, a West End father whose twin boys attend Washburn, agreed: “Washburn is very close and convenient. I'm worried about the extra distance my boys will have to go.”

        Associate Superintendent Kathleen Ware emphasized that the changes are driven more by curriculum concerns than potential savings.

        The plan would:

        • Consolidate Porter and Hays into one K-8 school, close Washburn Elementary and send Washburn students to Heberle and Porter/Hays. Washburn should be closed because of its proximity to Heberle and Porter/Hays and its dilapidated condition, Ms. Ware said.

        • Close Quebec Heights/Cincinnati Academy of Math and Science as a magnet program and reopen it as a neighborhood school. An August report showed that the Price Hill school's students performed worse in math and science than many of their CPS peers, and their scores on state proficiency tests were declining. Most parents said they chose Quebec Heights because of location or a sibling's enrollment there.

        • Move the Montessori program at Carson to Dater Junior High in Westwood, open Carson as a K-8 neighborhood school and move Dater's students to the vocational wing of Western Hills High School. Dater would enroll students in grades 8-10 in 2000-01 and grades 9-10 thereafter. (West High's enrollment this year is nearly 1,800, about 1,200 less than its capacity. Carson, meanwhile, has 124 students on a waiting list; moving its Montessori program to Dater would allow enrollment to expand.)

        • Convert Covedale, Heberle, Midway, Rothenberg, Taft, Vine, Washington Park and Whittier elementaries into K-8 schools with slightly adjusted attendance areas. Price Hill students who now attend Hays, Heberle and Washburn would go to Carson and Quebec Heights.

        The proposal prompted praise from one school board member.

        “These are changes people have been asking for — to have more neighborhood schools and more Montessori options,” board member Sally Warner said.

        Board member Harriet Russell directed administrators to determine whether converting to K-8 has boosted achievement and parental satisfaction and cut discipline problems in other CPS schools.

        Board member Lynn Marmer suggested seeking input from community councils and residents. Public hearings are likely in December.


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