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Fernway Forever: Shaker Heights Students Head To New Schools After Fire

Fernway parents wave goodbye to kids headed to new schools on the first day of school [Annie Wu / ideastream]
Fernway parents wave goodbye to kids headed to new schools on the first day of school.

Kids in the Fernway neighborhood of Shaker Heights took a new route back to school Wednesday.

Standing at the corner across from their fenced-in damaged school, Fernway children and parents waited for a slightly tardy bus.

After the elementary school roof caught fire last month, the district decided to place the students in school buildings around town. On this morning, families sent their children on buses for the first time.

Jeff Brown says his first-grade daughter was excited to ride the bus and head to a new building for the year.

“When she first started walking to the bus she grabbed my leg, but then she just warmed up and ran on,” said Brown. “Had a big smile on her face. Waved at us from the window. It’s kind of that parent-child moment that everyone looks for.”

The district held ice cream socials earlier in the week to acclimate the Fernway children with each of the three local elementary schools where they’re being relocated.

“You get free ice cream and then you have this tour thing,” explained third grader Quinn Castilla who was first in line when the bus arrived.





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In Shaker Heights, Fernway Elementary parent Cara Liles-Baker sent her third grader to a new school Wednesday after their neighborhood elementary school suffered damage from a roof fire.

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Cara Liles-Baker says the transition to a new school and a new routine seems more difficult for the parents than the children.

“My son’s going to Woodbury and he’s excited about the school bus, excited about the cafeteria and the snack bar and he’s looking forward to it,” said Liles-Baker.

For her, she says, it’s a challenge not being able to walk to the school that has always been a hub for the community and “not being able to go over to talk to the teachers as readily and just a new routine for everyone and not having the students all together from the neighborhood.” And she added, “The playground’s a gathering place for kids of all ages so that’s going to be missed too.”

Jorge Castilla says the district has done a good job of placing the children in other schools so they could start on time, and he says the neighborhood has come together around the damaged building.

“There’s a nice Fernway Forever campaign happening,” Castilla said. “There’s actually a few people who’ve been painting rocks with googly eyes and hiding them around the neighborhood, and that’s part of the campaign to kind of bring the neighborhood together. We’ve had a lot of fundraisers.”

A Shaker school district spokesman says the first day went smoothly. He says the board is interviewing architecture firms to make a plan for the future of the building.

Annie Wu is the deputy editor of digital content for Ideastream Public Media.