AKRON  Akron Public Schools have officially kicked of the planning process for the city’s final high school construction project.

During a meeting last month at Kenmore High School, officials from the schools, city and community members came together to hear some preliminary plans for the new building. District officials early last year had to make the tough decision of where to spend the remaining money the district will receive from the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission (OFCC). The district decided to combine Kenmore and Garfield and to build the new school on the current Garfield site.

OFCC will only partner with the district on one more middle school or high school project. The district has completed 32 schools, two are under construction and the new Garfield Kenmore building is in the design phase.

Akron Public Schools Superintendent David James said the goal of the school will be to meet career paths for jobs that haven’t even been created yet. He said he also hopes to partner with several organizations during the project to provide equipment for the schools for career based learning. James also said the new schools are not just for school children, but are open to be used by the community after hours and that is why they are called community learning centers.

John Peterson, project manager for GPD Group, said the company has partnered with the school district to help with the architect of the other community learning centers. He said the learning method for students has changed through the years. The model was centered on the teacher giving students all the information, but now it is more student-centered learning with the teacher being the facilitator.

New building

The new building will approximately be 275,000 square feet and serve grades 9 through 12 in both the Garfield and Kenmore district. Peterson said the building will be designed to house 1,400 students.

Exact design and features of the building have not been worked out, but there will be LED lights throughout, wireless internet, security enhancements and flexible classroom space. There will also be a lot of natural daylight throughout the building.

Some of the possible programs for the new school include advanced manufacturing, business logistics, construction & building technology, energy & environmental protection, engineering technology, HR management, nursing & patient care, IT interactive media, IT support services, social services and culinary arts.

James hopes to be able to include the culinary arts program, something students and instructors would like to see in the new school.

The footprint of the school will be larger than the current building, but school officials hope to put a practice athletic field on the site too.

Timeline

The district plans to work on the program of requirements during the next couple of months and also identify partnerships. Once this is complete, the design phase will begin, which will take 11 to 14 months.

The old Garfield High School still needs to be abated and demolished. Demolition is likely to begin this summer and last into fall 2019. Construction of the new building will begin in the spring of 2020 and continue through the summer of 2022.

Once construction begins, all trucks are expected to enter and exit the site using Archwood Avenue as to not disrupt any of the other streets that surround the school. The district also hopes to allow for a student mentor program once construction starts so the students can come on site and get a closer look at the project.

The new building is set to be dedicated and ready for fall 2020.

Concerns

Residents in attendance at the meeting raised several concerns. Firestone Park residents wanted to make sure bricks will be able to be obtained once demolition of the old Garfield begins. James said bricks will be offered to anyone and there may be a fundraiser through the PTA, but the details have not been worked out.

Firestone Park resident Terri Collins voiced her frustration with the lack of advertisement of the meeting. She asked district officials how the meeting was advertised. The district said it was put in the Akron Beacon Journal, announced on three radio stations and 1,000 fliers were sent home with students.

Collins wasn’t satisfied with the answer.

Akron Ward 7 Councilman Donnie Kammer was also upset with the lack of communication leading up to the meeting as he said he was informed only hours before.

He hopes there are more meetings in the future and that they are held in Firestone Park. James said he will be in contact with Kammer about holding future meetings in Firestone Park.

"I will make sure taxpayers and residents hear my voice loud and clear moving forward," Kammer said.

Dave Bryant, former Ward 7 councilman, raised concerns about the empty school buildings and having enough students to fill the new school.

"I hope we have our heads screwed on straight in respect to the amount of students we’re projecting," Bryant said.

Bryant also voiced his frustration with the fact that the west side of Akron got all their schools rebuilt and he believes Firestone Park is just getting the last of the money left over. He also stated that nine of the 10 current school board members live on the west side.