Shaker's Fernway Elementary School Rises From The Ashes

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Students at Fernway Elementary School in Shaker Heights learned a lesson in resilience this year.

The school's roof caught fire last summer. No one was hurt in the fire but the damage was extensive.

Since August, Fernway students have attended class in three different school buildings.

Students, parents and alumni have rallied to show school pride, and to demonstrate why Fernway is so important not only to the neighborhood, but to the greater community.

Fast forward nine months and the building, going through major renovations, is set to re-open for the 2020-2021 school year.

"Fernway 2.0” will have major upgrades but it won't have everything some may have wanted.

Reconstruction will cost an estimated $17.5 million, with $14.5 million provided by insurance. The Shaker Schools Board of Education approved the additional $3 million.

Fernway principal Chris Hayward says the plan calls for 15 classrooms, same as before, with a new layout to accommodate services like speech and occupational therapy. An elevator will help make the building handicap accessible and the classrooms with updated technology.

“It is still very small facility,” said Hayward. “I mean the reality is we're a landlocked facility and there weren't a lot of options in terms of growing the size of the school. Yes, we're going up vertically up on that second floor. And so we're actually utilizing a space that was a former portion of the flat roof and that that's allowing us to open up a lower area which is our old auditorium space and kind of reconfigure that.”

Also, there will now be a cafetorium where students will eat lunch and be a place for large gatherings. But the building will still lack air conditioning.

“Obviously, if we had to donor that stepped up overnight and wanted to present the amount of money that we would need to move in that direction that would be something that we would look into,” said Hayward.  “The building is being plumbed and being readied for a potential air conditioning system some at some point in the future. “

A second phase of the project calls for upgrading and moving the playground to the south end of the property. So far, the Shaker Schools Foundation has raised $225,000 for that project.


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