AKRON Following months of community meetings and reviewing options, the Akron Public Schools Board of Education decided to build a combined Garfield and Kenmore high school on the site of the current Garfield High School.
Garfield High School will close at the end of this school year and students next year will attend Kenmore High School until the new school is complete.
Selecting a site for the new combined school was no easy task for Akron Superintendent David James and the school board. James said the goal was to look for a site that was between Garfield and Kenmore.
One of the first sites looked at was the current Akron Baptist Temple site, which is for sale, but James said the district would have to pay to demolish the building and the state wouldn’t partner with the district to help pay for the demolition.
Two additional sites on Wilbeth Road near Manchester Road were explored, but one had a wetland and the other had a warehouse on the property with high tension wires running through the site. James said he didn’t want to build a school near high tension wires.
Akron Board of Education President Patrick Bravo said the board pushed to explore multiple sites, especially one with a Metro bus stop nearby.
One additional site that was explored was the former Margaret Park Elementary site on Manchester Road just south of I-76/77, but James said there wasn’t enough acreage and Summit Lake sits just east of the site. The district had concerns about soil conditions and flooding, so it opted against that site.
James said with all the sites explored being ruled out, the district decided on the current Garfield site.
Deciding to merge the schools and where to build the building was no easy decision.
"The problem is when you have to wake up at 2 o’clock in the morning thinking about this all the time," James said. "A lot of times a solution is obvious to you, but you have to get public input."
James also said it is critical to gather information to answer questions the public may have.
Bravo agrees with James that the decision for the final high school was extremely difficult because it is an emotion one as a community doesn’t want to lose a high school. Bravo said Kenmore is a strong community that is very passionate about the schools.
The district weighed six different options for the remaining schools that have not been touched by construction yet. Bravo said the decision was based on doing what is best for students of the district.
"I think this one (option) made the most sense," James said.
The state will help fund the project by paying for 69 percent of it. James said looking at the population of both schools, combining them was the best option moving forward.
PLANNING AND TIMELINE
James said the project will take several years to complete with some community and staff planning possibly beginning as early as this spring. A final community walk-through will also take place for anyone wanting to tour the school one final time before demolition takes place.
It remains unclear if the track and football field will still fit on the site as James said the district hasn’t even started design yet. He said the athletic options will be discussed more once a contract is in place.
One option could be housing the practice field at the Garfield site and having the competitors field at the Roswell Kent Middle School site. The middle school is expected to close and merge with Innes Middle School.
James estimates programing for the new combined Garfield and Kenmore will be done by fall or early next year, with design taking 12 months.
"It will be a couple years before we even have something ready for bid," James said.
A FUTURE FOR KENMORE
Bravo is holding out hope that someday a high school could be built in Kenmore again if the population were to increase.
"Our best problem would be if things turn around and we have to put a school there," Bravo said.
Bravo said the community needs to work with the city and other partners to work to build Kenmore back up.
"I haven’t given up on getting Kenmore back up and building a school there," Bravo said.
James, on the other hand, doesn’t fully agree with Bravo.
"Financially, I don’t see where we would get the money from to do that," James said.
He said the state funding is critical and the state won’t partner with Akron on any more additional construction projects after this last high school is built.