© 2024 Ideastream Public Media

1375 Euclid Avenue, Cleveland, Ohio 44115
(216) 916-6100 | (877) 399-3307

WKSU is a public media service licensed to Kent State University and operated by Ideastream Public Media.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Medina schools cutting, consolidating after enrollment decline, levy failures

The front of Medina High School at Medina City Schools. Medina has seen several operating levies fail recently and is set to make cuts because of those failures. It hasn't seen new operating money approved by voters in roughly 11 years.
Ryan Loew
Ideastream Public Media
The front of Medina High School. Due to enrollment decline, Medina is closing two elementary schools and repurposing them to serve as an administrative office and preschool, respectively.

The enrollment of Medina City Schools has dropped by about 1,500 students over the last decade as the city 's population ages. To compensate, the school district is making a number of changes, including repurposing two school buildings.

Medina Schools Superintendent Aaron Sable said the district is also engaging in redistricting, a process that could change which schools some students are assigned to in an effort to balance the number of students attending each building.

The district, which has about 6,200 students, also is moving students out of two of its seven elementary schools, Heritage and Garfield. The district's technology offices and a professional development center, not at the high school, will move to Garfield. Heritage will become a preschool.

Medina is one of many districts across the country grappling with how to cut back on operations after facing financial challenges brought on by enrollment declines.

The decline in enrollment, Sable said, is partly due to the growing number of retirees who do not have school-age children in Medina. It's also due to competition, he said. A number of other education options are available in and around Medina, including charter and private schools, which could be cutting into the district’s enrollment.

"Our Baby Boomers obviously are getting older, they're such a large generation and part of the population," Sable said. "I think Medina has been a landing spot for people to stay and retire. We definitely have seen an increase in retirement facilities or housing developments that are definitely marketed towards that generation."

The repurposing of buildings and balancing student populations in schools comes as the district is hurting financially, with its last two levy attempts failing, Sable said. He said many residents support their local schools, but feel over-taxed and unable to afford higher property taxes. Some are also frustrated with the state government, which last year drastically increased public funding for vouchers for students to attend private schools.

"So there's a lot of money that could be, and should be, going to public school systems to support our public kids that is being shifted over to the private sector," he said. "And I think that's something frustrating to our community that those public dollars are being used for private reasons."

Vicki Druley, a parent of four students in Medina schools, and co-chair of Kids First Medina, the volunteer committee that’s led the district’s recent levy efforts, said the district is in a tough spot.

“We're considered an affluent community," she said. "So that means that we get less money from the state than, say, some of our surrounding school districts. That's made things difficult," she said.

Medina receives about 83% of its funding from local taxpayers based on Ohio’s school funding model, according to data provided by the district.

Druley said it's smart for the district to consolidate buildings and said she hopes voters understand the district is doing the best it can with the money it has, especially as it has placed another levy request on the November ballot.

She said it may be emotional to see Heritage and Garfield change for some alumni and parents who went to those schools. Two of her children moved out of Heritage in anticipation of the change of use, and they're doing fine, she said.

“They’ve got friends going with them to these new buildings, even if it’s not all of them, and some of their teachers are going,” she said.

The district is also cutting back in other ways due to the levy failures. Sable said the district is making approximately $4 million in cuts going into the next school year, which will involve eliminating positions. Four administrative positions and roughly 20 teachers and 20 other staff positions will be cut.

Sable said the redistricting would have happened regardless of the levy failures because of the decline in students. Reducing the number of schools will soften the impact of staff cuts, he said.

Since we have to do reductions, it (redistricting) is allowing us to do them without increasing class sizes too terribly much, because of the consolidation,” he said.

Medina has also sought voter approval of a bond issue to fund new construction, a measure that failed last year. If it is approved, it would allow for the transition of two middle schools to a fifth-through-sixth grade and seventh-through-eighth grade model, and the rebuilding one of those schools.

Conor Morris is the education reporter for Ideastream Public Media.