July 22, 2022
Three years ago, the Shaker Heights City School District, City of Shaker Heights and the Shaker Heights Public Library entered into a unique partnership called Forward Together.
The partnership was created as a mechanism for the three entities to work together on a forward-looking strategy for current and future community facilities. The goals of Forward Together were: to be fiscally responsible, to be more collaborative, to ensure a healthy and vibrant community and to promote diversity and inclusion. These continue to be our guiding principles. In addition to this, the Board of Education and administration continue to be committed to providing a bold and excellent education for all of our students.
The Board of Education has been working diligently toward the creation of the District’s first comprehensive long-term facilities plan, an objective established in our five-year Strategic Plan. I want to personally thank the members of our community for their feedback and suggestions. I also want to thank the District administration for its many hours of research and community engagement.
After reflecting on months of public discussion and debate, it is time to balance a complex series of interests and move forward with a plan that is best for our children, our families and our community. Additionally, it is clear that we must create a facilities plan that the majority of our community will get behind and support. No facilities plan, no matter how ambitious or well-intentioned, can succeed if it lacks the support of our tax-paying residents.
With that in mind, and after further consultation with the superintendent, I have asked our administration to focus on the following outline of a facilities blueprint for our District in which:
Boulevard, Fernway, Lomond, Mercer and Onaway would continue to operate as elementary schools, likely serving students in grades K-5. These buildings would likely be renovated.
A new or renovated Middle School, serving grades 6-8, would be built on the current Middle School site. We would continue to explore the possible use of available space at that location that could potentially be used by the city.
A new or renovated High School, serving grades 9-12, would be built on the current High School site.
Woodbury would be repurposed into space that would likely house our early childhood program and District offices.
Development of a form of universal Pre-K for all 4 year olds.
As you can see, this outline contains several significant departures from recently discussed options. First, Onaway and Boulevard would remain open as schools. Second, Ludlow would not reopen as a District school. Third, the current Middle School site would continue to be the site of a middle grades building.
Our Board believes we need to continue to grow our Pre-K program with the goal of establishing universal preschool for our community. Expanding our current Pre-K program is an objective in the District’s Strategic Plan. Research shows that high-quality preschool programs enhance the social and emotional well-being of young learners, prepare them for kindergarten, lead to enhanced academic outcomes and reduce disciplinary problems later in their school career. These positive outcomes are especially true for children from historically disadvantaged and marginalized communities.
We acknowledge that paying for an expanded preschool program is not an easy task. Although the return on investment in high-quality preschool is well documented, no state or federal funds for it currently exist. That said, it is the kind of transformative investment that Shaker has historically made to maintain our tradition of academic excellence.
Please know that the outline I am offering above is not a final decision, but rather a roadmap to guide us going forward. Determining a final long-term facilities plan remains the work of the entire Board of Education and will be voted on at a public meeting.
Thank you again for your input and ideas. No plan–however thoughtful or comprehensive–can please everyone. However, I believe this outline will help the Board and the community arrive at the best possible decision for our District.
Dr. Emmitt R. Jolly, President
Shaker Heights Board of Education