By JEFF GALLATIN
Interim Superintendent Terry Krivak wants to do more than talk about upgrading facilities in the North Olmsted City Schools, and he hopes the community is ready to do so as well.
During the annual state of the schools address Thursday to the North Olmsted Chamber of Commerce, Krivak advocated making the current middle and high school properties an education center in coming years. This would entail building a new high school on Butternut Ridge Road, where the current middle school is located. That would prompt moving the middle school to the current high school structure after it is refurbished and identifying four of the current seven primary and intermediate schools that are best-suited for elementary programs, refurbishing those buildings and using them for kindergarten and grades 1 through 4.
“I am suggesting that we continue and expand the work that has been done over the years to create an education center by making the current middle school and high school property our education campus. There are over 50 acres in this area,” Krivak said.
This proposal comes shortly after Krivak said the district applied for a permit from the city of North Olmsted to demolish an old annex portion of the middle school complex by the start of 2013-2014 school year. If approved, the new cleared space would provide additional room for buses and parents picking up or dropping off children in the area. District officials said they believe the move will help alleviate congestion and safety issues for students in the area.
Krivak said Thursday the district will be working on an updated strategic plan with a target year of 2020. It will focus on work in six areas, finances, technology, a master facilities plan, instruction, school and community, and assessment and monitoring.
In Thursday’s proposal, items Krivak suggested should be considered for includsion in the new high school campus design include a community recreation center, performing arts center and auditorium, television studio and senior center. He said the district and city could clear the current middle school property by removing the buildings and functions not directly related to the instructional or school programs. He said when the new middle school is moved to the current high school building, it should include grades 5 through 8.
He said the city government and school district have a good relationship and could work together on the new facilities, such as the recreation and senior centers, as well as the TV studio and performing arts center. The city already has a senior center located in North Olmsted Park and plans to put new facilities in the recreation center off Lorain Road, but Mayor Kevin Kennedy, when asked later, indicated a willingness to listen and consider any proposals.
Krivak said the proposed education center would concentrate school and city resources in a time when having multiple governmental bodies working together aids communities.
“Sixty-five percent of our students would be located on this education campus, which has the potential to improve learning opportunities and support services by concentrating our human and material resources,” he said.
When asked later, Kennedy said he appreciated Krivak’s willingness to consider moving the city forward.
“It’s forward thinking, and I like that,” Kennedy said. “The city and schools have a great working relationship and I look forward to working with Superintendent Krivak on plans which will better the schools and the city.”
Krivak noted that like many northern Ohio school districts, North Olmsted’s enrollment has been dropping for years.
“We have 4,015 students this year, down 70 students. While it is a slight decline, it represents a pattern that has continued over the years,” he said. “Peak enrollment was in 1974 when we had 8,200 students, double the number of students we have today.”
In addition, Krivak advocated continuing with the North Olmsted Stadium Foundation plan for major renovations of the district’s stadium by adding field turf as well as other district sports facility improvements.
He also said creation of a roundabout or traffic circle on Butternut Ridge Road could enhance on the new education center as well as aid traffic safety.
Krivak said his proposal and other information from the state of the schools will be on the district website at www.northolmstedschools.org., along with a survey asking residents for input on the ideas.
Afterward, Kennedy and other officials expressed interest in Krivak’s proposals.
“It’s progressive and looks to making the future of the district brighter, and I like that,” said Jeff Herwick, president of the chamber of commerce and manager of a FifthThird Bank branch in the city. “We need to look at what’s going around us and how to best utilize the resources we have.”
Herwick, who had two daughters graduate from the North Olmsted district, said he appreciates the blend of upgrading district educational facilities while working with the city and other groups such as the Stadium Foundation and the chamber.
School board President John Lasko said he appreciates Krivak’s efforts to initiate discussion and dialogue about the future direction of the district, and by extension, the community.
“Although the final form usually is different, all plans must start with a concept, a dream, a vision,” Lasko said. “Like what has been acomplished in surrounding communities, there are elements in Mr. Krivak’s vision, such as a recreation center and a senior center, that lend themselves to partnerships with the city, and perhaps, other public or private organizations.
“Fundamentally we have been and will continue to be guided by our school district’s mission to ensure all students learn skills and knowledge to thrive in their future education and work.”