Thursday, February 05, 2009

State of the Akron Public Schools

According to Superintendent David James, it’s not very good.

  • Falling enrollment, from 34,000 in 1992 to 23,800 students today. That’s a 30% decline over the past 17 years.

  • Union contracts. He’s hoping to get a one year extension of the current deal, and some cost relief on the benefits package.

  • Uncertain state finances. Essentially, how much is the state government going to take from some districts to subsidize Akron?

James is projecting a $37 million deficit by 2011, and $153 million

by 2013. That’s a lot of simoleans. The district spent about $260 million in 2007. Revenues are projected flat through 2012, and expenses are not. You don't have to be Warren Buffet to understand the implications of flat revenue and increasing expenses.

The real attention getter in this talk was the notion to build a new school on the grounds of Stan Hywet Hall. This is either the ramblings of someone suffering from a toxic level of exposure to Asinine-90, or a big hoax.

I'm hoping for hoax.

Stan Hywet is a local historical treasure. It’s one of the finest surviving manor style houses in America. Adding a public school to the grounds is only going to increase wear and tear on the facility, and probably require additional security measures like unsightly fences to keep the kids away from the house. Even then, there's going to be wear and tear on the grounds, litter, graffiti, etc. Kids are kids; stuff happens. While we're at it, why not toss in a McDonald's and a Kwik-i-Mart?

The landscaping and setting of the house on the grounds is a critical part of the treasure. The remaining land attached to the house is only 70 acres, much of it already heavily landscaped or otherwise unsuited for building. There’s no place to drop in a school building, parking, playgrounds, etc. that would not adversely impact Stan Hywet. Furthermore, tell me where we’re going to come up with an affordable Tudor Revival school building that will fit in with the house and gardens.

Essex Elementary – already scheduled to be closed – is practically on the grounds of Stan Hywet already, though separated by railroad tracks, a ravine, woods, and a barb wire fence. If we are going to put something like this forward, and consolidate King School, Case, and Essex, why not just build the new facility on the existing Essex lot and close King and Case? Google maps gives the existing distance over the road at 0.5 miles.

Stan Hywet may well be a big money loser for the city. The upkeep and utilities have got to be enormous, let alone the lack of property tax revenue, but chopping off a big block of the property to make yet another school building seems to be the zenith of epsilon minus reasoning.