Brookhaven Bearcats become endangered species
As I was about to transition from middle school to high school, there was a storm of controversy. “Busing” that had been employed in Southern states and some large cities to correct racial imbalance in public schools was now becoming a reality for me. How could this be? I only lived a few blocks from a brand new high school that was about to open just as I was ready to enter the 10th grade.
Some people in the neighborhood had already been informed that they would be bused to other schools. Some sought to protest, while others saw no choice but to comply.
Then, I thought about it; there were no African Americans at my middle school that I knew of except my friend who was multiracial and most people didn’t know that. I guess that is why there had to be busing.
Fortunately, I was permitted to attend the new high school named Brookhaven. It was gorgeous architecture, modern with atriums and large auditorium. It had a track and football field that would host the state champions by the time I graduated in 1966.
For a few years, everyone wanted to attend Brookhaven because it was the newest and the best by modern standards. Then, in a couple of years, another new high school was built to the north of Brookhaven, and everyone wanted to attend that one. By that time, busing was over.
Some other things happened in the old neighborhood. A new shopping center was built, mall style. It would eclipse the old strip center in popularity.
Columbus was a city on the move.
A couple of years ago, the mall where I met my wife was bulldozed because F & R Lazarus, a department store was going out of business. It was the anchor.
This past year, I heard that my Father’s high school was torn down. People were buying bricks as souvenirs from the school that was more than 100 years old. Now, schools are replaced before a student’s lifecycle is complete. The places where we shopped and lived are buried before we are.
They called us the Brookhaven Bearcats. I think we are now endangered species.
“Columbus may close some high schools
A few are less than 60% full as district looks to shut buildings
The Columbus Dispatch Sunday October 16, 2011 11:46 PM
But after losing thousands of students, some high schools are less than 60 percent full.
In this new round of school closings, “everything’s on the table,” said Floyd V. Jones, co-chairman of a school-closings committee that began meeting this month.
The panel will recommend which schools should be closed or merged. The school board is to hear the recommendation in December, and its decision is to be carried out when the school year ends.
The district hasn’t closed a high school since it shut Central in 1982.
“Not only are we not closing high schools, but we’re opening new ones,” said school-board member Stephanie Groce. The Columbus International High School, an extension of the district’s K-8 language-immersion programs, was opened last year.
“We should be looking at all under-enrolled buildings,” Groce said.
Enrollment is down so much at South High that it fills only 44 percent of its building. East’s enrollment is 56 percent of the building capacity. And Brookhaven’s 675 students fill only 59 percent of capacity.
When enrollment falls well short of capacity, districts often can save money by combining buildings, said Lawrence Picus, a professor at the University of Southern California who studies school finance. Districts must weigh the financial benefit with the political consequences of closing beloved high schools, he said.
The Columbus committee will consider enrollment and other factors in choosing schools to close.
“You’re not just dealing with schools; you’re dealing with neighborhoods as well. This is not just a straight, dispassionate, analytical review,” said committee member Michael Dalby, who is president and CEO of the Columbus Chamber.
Schools that have been renovated or rebuilt under the district’s massive construction project are safe, as are schools with prized specialty programs. And because Columbus has closed so many low-enrollment and underperforming schools, there are fewer obvious candidates.
The committee is using a template that asks about capacity, building quality and academics.
During previous closing cycles, the panel examined one of those factors at a time, beginning with enrollment. That meant that any elementary school with enrollment lower than 400 remained in the mix of possible closures.
This time, parents won’t see a trickle of lists that name “at risk” schools because the factors won’t be viewed separately.
The new process also will allow the district to keep intact its new “feeder patterns” — the neighborhood zones that spell out which elementary, middle and high schools residents would attend, said Carole Olshavsky, who oversees district facilities. That’s especially important to the district.
“I think we made such progress with the feeder-pattern solution on the last go-around,” Olshavsky said. “If there were consolidations or closings ... we’d still work with the feeder-pattern alignment.”
For example, in a zone that has four elementary schools, one middle school and one high school, it would be difficult to close the middle school, but the middle and high schools could be merged.
Middle-school enrollment has declined the most: 36 percent since the 2004-05 school year, when the district began aggressively closing buildings. That, combined with the amount of open space in high schools, could mean that the district will consider forming more schools that combine grades 7-12. Officials reconfigured Linden-McKinley that way in 2009.
Two other consolidation plans are in motion as part of the district’s rebuilding plan:
Alum Crest is being joined with Clearbrook, a middle school, to create a 6-12 school. Both serve emotionally disturbed students.
Dana Elementary is to be combined with Starling Middle in a consolidation spelled out in plans for a new building across from Starling in Franklinton.
Columbus has 118 schools and 15 administration or operations buildings.
Schools with enrollment far below their capacity can be more expensive to run. They still require heating, lighting, maintenance and cleaning. And administrators still must be at each building.
The district is likely to save more by closing or consolidating schools than administrative buildings because a school offers more opportunities to reduce the number of workers. That’s the source of the largest savings.
For the first time, administration buildings are being targeted in the closings process. The buildings are, on average, 50 years old, and many are former schools, so there’s wasted gym and cafeteria space. District officials plan to recommend consolidating some, perhaps onto one campus.