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Renovating Cleveland Schools

Monday, January 28, 2002 at 4:23 PM

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This summer the renovation of Cleveland's school buildings will go into full swing. The Cleveland district has nearly a billion dollars to sink into improving its 120-some-odd school buildings, thanks to last year's passage of a school facilities levy and state match to go with it. State and district officials have completed their assessment of the schools, but they say an important component of the planning is still missing - gathering input from the public. That process began last week and continues through February 20th. 90.3 WCPN's Bill Rice prepared this report.

Pat Sebeska: I have a concern about windows. I teach on the second floor, and my first graders are melting.

Bill Rice: That complaint was among the first of several heard Wednesday night in the combination gymnasium and cafeteria at Kentucky Elementary School on Cleveland’s near-west side. Pat Sebeska and a handful of other Kentucky teachers were among the ten or so people who attended their school’s meeting on what needs to be done to make the building habitable. It gets as hot as 90 degrees in her classroom in the winter, Sebeska says. A long term solution would be a new, modern heating system that would regulate the temperature in every room. But, absent that, Sebeska would elect a somewhat less efficient method of cooling things down. But that’s a problem too.

PS: I have two windows that don’t open at all, and I have two that, if we open them, I can’t close them. So I have to stand on the window sill or find the cusdtodian, and I’m not standing on the window sill.

BR: At Kentucky, Sebeska says, the windows on the first floor have been replaced, but the models are discontinued and parts are no longer available. Windows on the second and third floors, she says, are screaming to be fixed.

PS: They shake, they let the rain in, we can’t put anything on the windowsills, the kids can’t put the books down there, you can’t put anything there. So they need to re-evaluate about our windows. Not only do we need windows, but our shades are at least 15 years old - probably older. Some are pinned or stapled, and they are in bad, bad shape.

BR: That’s just one of the major problems these teachers cite. Another is moisture caused either by leaky roofing or leaky plumbing. That one especially bothers Mary Bratt, who staffs the second-floor library.

Mary Bratt: Also, under the bathroom. I’m under the girl’s bathroom, the room next to me is under the boy’s. Any time there’s water problems we get the leaks, you know, from pipes, from sinks, that comes down through the second floor. The third floor bathrooms are severe problems and health problems too. We have had urine dripping through the ceiling in 216.

BR: These kinds of problems fall into the category of “warm, safe and dry”, the mantra of the schools upgrade. And who better to weigh in on what the problem areas are than the people who deal with them every day. But district officials want them to think beyond “warm safe and dry.” Facilitator Marva Richards of the Cleveland Summit on Education spells it out.

Marva Richards: Dream about all of the educational things that are possible in a building that is well equipped. It’s not denying the other things, but let’s talk about… you know, math labs, science labs, what else would go on that would maske this into a super learning environment?

Montage of People: A computer lab, a special room with loads of computers. A science lab with the tables with sinks…

BR: Other possibilities included art and music rooms and band instruments, a separate gymnasium and cafeteria so that gym classes could be held throughout the day, air conditioning so that literacy and other programs can be held in summer… more classrooms to accommodate smaller classes instead of subdivided classrooms. Marva Richards is careful to point out that these sessions are designed to gather a full spectrum of suggestions. The sky’s the limit - bearing in mind that resources are finite and not everything will be possible in the end.

Montage of People: We’re brainstorming… only if we can have a pool…

BR: One woman, Lilly Perez, who works with the bilingual department, has set her sights very high.

Lilly Perez: I would like to tear this building down. It’s full of asbestos and paint chips falling down on the children. I would like a building with at least a space of ten acres comfortable enough so that my children want to be in this school.

BR: All in all, this small but animated group feel the meeting was worthwhile. Mary Febig, Principle at Kentucky Elementary, says she’s impressed with the fact that each school is being canvassed individually. She’s glad that her staff has gotten the chance to dream a little, but says they’re realistic.

Mary Febig: To be honest I think that obviously the priorities have to go with what is needed to make the school’s safe, warm and dry. And I think from what I’ve seen with the other buildings that’s going to take a lot of money, so I don’t honestly think there’s going to be a lot of the dreams being fulfilled, although it’s fun to think about it.

BR: Are you satisfied with the turnout here tonight?

MF: No, I would love to have had more people come here today and we didn’t have a lot of notice and we weren’t able to get the word out to the whole community. But I think that, because the meetings are going to be going on for the next month many of the schools will have a better turnout because they’ve had more chance to plan for this.

BR: School officials are encouraging parents and other members of the public to attend these meetings. So far 30 have been held, leaving 90 to go over the next four weeks. In Cleveland, Bill Rice, 90.3 WCPN News.

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