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NHNA Letter to Columbus City Schools Board of Education & Community Facilities Task Force Regarding School Closings in the North Hilltop

May 22nd, 2024

West Broad Elementary - Located at 2744 W. Broad St., Columbus, Ohio 43204.

Photo taken by the North Hilltop Neighborhood Association.


Dear Columbus City Schools Board of Education & Community Facilities Task Force,


We are concerned community members, families, and parents from the North Hilltop community writing to express our strong opposition to the proposed school closures. We request detailed information and transparency about these plans, as they significantly impact not only our community but also the district and central Ohio as a whole.


Impact on Students and Community

We urge you to reconsider the closure of West Broad and Valleyview Elementary Schools. Shutting down these schools would displace our students, forcing them into environments with markedly different class and racial dynamics. This transition could result in integration challenges, disproportionately affecting low-income and BIPOC students by disrupting their education and exposing them to potential punitive measures in and beyond their schooling. Closing these schools would dismantle the supportive environments and community bonds essential for student learning and well-being. Divesting from these schools sends a clear message of disregard for the students and families they serve.


Demographics and Educational Importance

The North Hilltop neighborhood has one of the highest ratios of children under 18 in the Columbus Metropolitan area, with about 22% of our population being school-aged. The average median income in our community is $31,000, making us an underserved and under-resourced community. Although our adult population has lower-than-average high school education levels, our young people are making strides in pursuing post-secondary education. Most of our children attend public schools, as evidenced by our private school enrollment rate of only 8.3%. Quality public education fosters an engaged citizenry, improves job prospects, and promotes social mobility. Strong schools enhance property values, provide safe havens, and help build dynamic communities. Without them, our community risks decline.


Economic Impact on Local Workforce

We are also concerned about the potential economic impact on local educators, administrators, support staff, and custodians. The closure of these schools would likely lead to job losses, further destabilizing our community. Abandoned school buildings could become sites for loitering, vagrancy, and crime, exacerbating community safety issues. Local businesses, already limited, may close or relocate, stripping the area of economic opportunities. Additionally, walking access to schools is crucial for our residents, who rely heavily on an inadequate public transit system. School closures would decrease family engagement and make it harder for students to attend, negatively affecting completion rates.


Importance to Economic Development

West Broad Elementary is particularly vital to the West Broad Street economic corridor, attracting and retaining families in our affordable community. The school is a cornerstone for local development, providing a stable and reputable educational institution that draws new families to the area. As a central feature of our community, West Broad Elementary enhances the appeal of the neighborhood, encouraging homeownership and long-term residency. This, in turn, supports local businesses and contributes to a thriving economy. The presence of a well-regarded elementary school is a key factor for families considering relocation. It offers assurance that their children will receive quality education in a safe and supportive environment. This confidence helps to foster community investment, as families are more likely to purchase homes and engage in local activities when they feel their educational needs are met.


Social Cohesion and Community Resilience

Additionally, the school plays a significant role in the social cohesion of the neighborhood. It acts as a hub for community events, parent-teacher associations, and extracurricular activities, all of which strengthen the bonds among residents. These activities not only enrich the lives of the students but also build a robust support network among families, enhancing overall community resilience. Closing West Broad Elementary would disrupt this positive cycle. The loss of a neighborhood school could deter potential new residents, leading to a decline in home values and a reduction in local business patronage. The ripple effects of such a closure would extend beyond education, affecting the economic stability and social fabric of the West Broad Street area. Thus, maintaining West Broad Elementary is crucial not just for educational reasons but also for sustaining the economic vitality and community spirit of the entire corridor.


Concerns Over Recent Investments and Future Plans

Moreover, recent investments in West Broad Elementary, such as the new roof and HVAC system, raise questions about the timing of these closures. The passing of the 2023 levy for $100 million to support local schools appears misaligned with the decision to close them. When was this decision made, and why was it kept quiet? What is the status of DeRolph v. State in proposing and implementing a constitutional alternative to Ohio's school funding scheme? What is the timeline for these closures, and how will current students benefit from recent improvements? According to Ohio Revised Code §3313.411, unused school facilities must first be offered to community, charter, and STEM schools, potentially leaving these buildings vacant for years. Such alternative schooling models are often less regulated and less accountable, raising concerns about their suitability, especially for students with disabilities. The use of public funds for private interests threatens the integrity of our public education system and the welfare of our community.


Plea for Reconsideration

We implore you to reconsider these closures. The social, economic, and educational impacts would be disastrous for our community. We urge you to explore alternative solutions for reorganizing and redistributing resources in ways that support the academic foundations of our students and their families. Please consider our concerns carefully in your decision-making process, as your decision will affect future generations.


Sincerely,  


Thomas E. Chahine 

Executive Director 

North Hilltop Neighborhood Association 


Joseph O. Oteng, JD, M.Ed.

Member

North Hilltop Neighborhood Association 

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