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Ahead of final suggestions for Columbus school closures, parents say they still feel left out

A woman with a baby in a front carrier speaks passionately at a podium in a church while two other women look on. A blurred sign in the foreground reads," Press conference opposing CCS Facility closure plan" with smaller, unreadable print below.
Allie Vugrincic
/
WOSU
Susan Cavendish, right, a parent of students at West Broad Elementary School, talks about the impacts closing that school would have for her family. Columbus City Schools psychologist Margaret Price, left, and Hubbard Elementary parent Liz Brown look on Monday at Trinity Episcopal Church on East Broad Street downtown. The group held a news event to demand that Columbus City Schools pause and reevaluate its plan to close up to 20 district school buildings.

Columbus City Schools' Superintendent’s Facilities Task Force is expected to give final recommendations on building closures by the end of the month.

CCS parents say they still don't feel involved enough in the process. Some are asking the district to pause and re-evaluate the closure process.

A group gathered at Trinity Episcopal Church Monday morning to again voice concerns about the plan to close up to 20 schools.

The parents said the process was "rushed" with only about seven weeks allotted for community feedback. They also believe the initial recommendations aren’t equitable and disproportionately effect the district’s minority students.

Hubbard Elementary parent and former Columbus City Councilwoman Liz Brown said about 2,500 of the more than 5,500 students whom would be displaced if all of the suggested schools are closed are Black.

“It's clear to me as a layperson that this violates common sense,” Brown said. “Columbus City Schools' own mission statement boasts a commitment to equity, but clearly their process to grade, rate, rank and cast aside entire school communities in just seven weeks of limited feedback demonstrates just the opposite.”

“Columbus City School's own mission statement boasts a commitment to equity, but clearly their process to grade rate ranked and cast aside entire school communities in just seven weeks of limited feedback demonstrates just the opposite.”
- Hubbard Elementary parent Liz Brown

CCS psychologist Margaret Price, who works in Hubbard and Lindbergh Elementary Schools said almost half of the schools slated for possible closure have a large population of students who are English language learners.

At Hubbard, she said about 45% of the building’s 275 students speak a language other than English, including Spanish, Somali, Nepali, Arabic and French.

Price said she started talking with those children’s families, and found that most didn’t know that the district wanted to close the school.

"At Hubbard, the lack of communication affected almost half of all of our families and essentially left them with without a voice on the issue,” Price said.

During Monday's meeting, parents said they also want to see financial projections and a “clear rationale” for the closures.

“When I found out my children's school was on this list of mass closures affecting 5,520 students, I tried to understand the big picture. Right. Why is this happening?” Brown said.

When asked where her children would go if Hubbard Elementary closed, she said, “I have no idea.”

“A more streamlined district size will allow for better resource allocation and improved educational outcomes."
- Columbus City Schools statement

In an issued statement, CCS Superintendent Angela Champman said she understands that “tough decisions need to be made,” and that “this is a very sensitive discussion.”

“We cannot undermine or negate the feelings of our school communities,” the statement reads.

The statement goes on to say that decisions are being made in the best interest of students and that by closing buildings, the district can expand access to “more modernized, flexible, and innovative learning spaces.”

“A more streamlined district size will allow for better resource allocation and improved educational outcomes. The Task Force has diligently held several community meetings to gather family feedback throughout May and June. They will meticulously review their preliminary recommendations to the Board and consider modifications that reflect the community's voice, ensuring a comprehensive and inclusive decision-making process,” the statement reads.

The Superintendent’s Facilities Task Force, the volunteer group charged with suggesting which buildings should close, is next scheduled to meet June 25 at 1:30 p.m. at East High School.

Allie Vugrincic has been a radio reporter at WOSU 89.7 NPR News since March 2023.