The Akron Public Schools board Monday night voted to close three of their elementary schools. School Board President Jason Haas says the move will help trim the budget cuts the district is faced with.
"Tonight we voted on the Superintendent's proposal from a couple weeks ago and we will be closing Barrett, Essex, and Rankin Elementary schools effective July 1st 2012."
Haas says the closures at those three schools was proposed due to low attendance numbers. The APS is looking at $22 million in budget cuts for fiscal year 2013. The decision will save APS an estimated $910,000, not including teachers' salaries, and represents the first of many major cuts to come.
One of the major concerns leading up to the closures was the number of special-needs students at Barrett Academy and where they will end up once a decision was made.
Haas says that some of the districts other schools are equipped to handle those needs.
"There's about 21-22 classrooms in the district that can handle the types of needs that the children in that building exhibit, and so they will be distributed to buildings that can cater to those needs."
Those schools would be, but not limited to Voris CLC and Firestone Park Elementary.
Board member Rev. Curtis T Walker Sr says his concern was that the same services at Barrett for special needs students would be given at Voris CLC and Firestone Park Elementary.
"It's not where the physical plant is, but the quality services are still in place no matter where the students are," he said.
"They have to have the services and tools they need to thrive and continue to get the education they deserve."
Christine Pope, a parent at Barrett Elementary, explains the kind of adverse affect this decision has on not only her kids, but other kids in the area.
"Barrett Academy is like a diamond in the rough, and we have great teachers and therapists there to help with the special-needs students, so it's a mix you couldn't find anywhere else in Akron."
Board member Lisa Mansfield says Karen Anderson's presentation on how the Barrett students would be moved to both Voris and Firestone Park was a quality way of showing that special education is a service instead of a place.
"We as a board hold ourselves accountable for our decision to transition these students, and the rest of the schools as well," she said.
For the other schools, Essex students will be going to Case and King elementaries, and those who attend Rankin will be going to Schumacher CLC and Crouse CLC.
With deep budget cuts facing the district in the future, the APS could forsee other building closures coming down the pike.
APS Superintendent David James outlined a proposal for additional cuts at Monday's meeting.
"The plan would eliminate at least 174 employees, including 140 teachers, and cut money spent on supplies, textbooks, technology and utilities," he said. "It's going to hurt everybody."
"It was a tough decision for us to make, but we did what needed to be done so the district can survive," said board member Ginger Baylor.
Haas concluded the meeting by saying that input from the community on the closures and budget were appreciated, but that this was the most "painful" time for him as a school board member.