Friday, November 09, 2001

CPS plan details coming soon

Series of meetings will inform public

By Jennifer Mrozowski
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Beginning next week, Cincinnati residents will start to hear some of the details of the biggest school facilities renovation plan in Cincinnati Public Schools' history.

        That is according to a schedule of meetings planned to inform the public about the decade-long project for the 42,000-student district's 76 school buildings. The cost is estimated at up to $900 million.

   Several community meetings will be held to inform the public about Cincinnati Public Schools' proposed school building project estimated at up to $900 million. The dates:
   • 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Wednesday: The state and CPS will present background on the process for assessing schools and development of a master plan for schools; public information only.
   • 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Dec. 12: The state and CPS will go over the condition and capacity of all the district's buildings and district enrollment projections by neighborhood. Also, that day, a presentation will be made to city community leaders and partners; public information only.
   • January (date undetermined): In a three-hour-plus meeting, the state and CPS will review the recommended Master Facilities Plan for the district. The plan outlines which schools are recommended for replacement, closure and renovation; public information only. Meetings to follow with principals and community leaders.
   • Mid-January: Community dialogue sessions will be scheduled in neighborhoods throughout the city; community input welcome.
        “It is just as important that the community understands each piece of this as the board understands each piece of this,” said Rick Williams, board of education president.

        The initial meeting, Wednesday, and a Dec. 12 meeting will detail the yearlong process of evaluating schools by state and local architects and construction experts and analyzing city and school demographics. State and CPS officials will also review the state's guidelines and standards for building new facilities.

        A meeting in January will outline which CPS schools are slated to close, be replaced or renovated. About 10 neighborhood meetings will follow in January to inform school communities of the changes.

        “Our objective is to try to serve as many people in their neighborhoods as possible,” said CPS spokeswoman Jan Leslie.

        District officials say they want to inform the public in part to drum up support for the project. It's expected the district will have to ask taxpayers to support a bond issue for several hundred million dollars. The state will pay 23 percent toward the project if the district can come up with the rest through a bond issue, private donations or other revenue.

        The catch is that the district and the state have to agree on which buildings should be renovated, replaced and closed.

        State officials said the necessary steps could be complete for CPS to try for a bond issue in November 2002. The district has not established a time frame for a bond issue.

        “This communication plan is critical in that it must work toward building a trust level in the district that has never been seen before,” board member Harriet Russell said.


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