(2015 Update - I originally published this in 2013. All of the dates, and by that I mean the years of proposed construction, can be moved back at least two or three years.)
Big changes are potentially on the way for the City of Erie School District. Which of the city's schools stay open and how those schools, including Jefferson and Collegiate Academy, are going to be used will be decided very soon.
I attended the unveiling of the district's "Phase 3" plans to try to wrap my mind around how the proposals will effect my neighborhood and my family. I of course have several interests. I want what is best for my kids who would likely be attending Jefferson Elementary and Northwest Pennsylvania Collegiate Academy. I also want to see the neighborhood's interests served. In addition, I am concerned about the long term viability of the district and its tax base, including the effect on my own property taxes.
There are three plans. I suggest looking at the district's three options in depth. Each option proposes changes to both Jefferson and Collegiate, and one divides the neighborhood's elementary attendance in half. Here is a break down of each plan's impact on our neighborhood. This does not take into account the effect the plans may have on property taxes or how expensive the plans are. It is simply a starting point based on the interests of the Academy Neighborhood.
For the record, Baker's Field, owned by the district, was not mentioned in any of the options.
PLAN A: Jefferson is renovated to become a K-8 school. Renovations take place (which means some or all students could be displaced) during the 15-16 and 16-17 school years. Northwest Pennsylvania Collegiate Academy remains open on State Street with renovations during 17-18 and 18-19. Students living on this map would attend Jefferson for K-8 and Strong Vincent for high school. This plan has the highest expense, and would leave the district with the largest number of remaining buildings, 14.
PLAN B: Northwest Pennsylvania Collegiate Academy moves to the Central Tech building. The Central Building would then house Central Tech and Collegiate Academy. The Academy building on State Street would be renovated and expanded during the 15-16 and 16-17 school years to become the new East High school. All high school students in our neighborhood, and all points east, would attend the new East High in the Academy building on State St. The old East High would become a K-8 school (The "Harding of the East Side" as one official put it.) As for Jefferson, it would be renovated and expanded during the 17-18 and 18-19 school years. This plan costs a bit less, and leaves the district with 13 buildings.
PLAN C: This plan is perhaps the most drastic of the three, and it does have one negative impact on our neighborhood that the planners may not have taken into consideration.
Under Plan C, Collegiate Academy would move to the Central Tech campus as described in Plan B. The Academy building would be renovated and expanded during the 15-16 and 16-17 school years to reopen in 2017 as a K-8 building. Jefferson would then close to be sold to raise revenue for the district. Unfortunately the plan, as written now, would send kids from our neighborhood who live west of Holland Street to the new Academy Elementary, and kids who live on the east side of Holland and further east to JoAnna Connell Elementary. JoAnna Connell would then be renovated and expanded during the 17-18 and 18-19 school years. High school students who live west of Holland would go to Strong Vincent; to the east they would go to East High school.
As an advocate for our neighborhood, I feel Holland Street is not a natural division line for the schools. The blocks just to the east are within easy walking distance of the proposed K-8 building on the Academy site.
I encourage anyone reading this to take a close look at the three options. Hopefully what I've written here will give you a good starting point. I know that the television coverage may not give you the depth you'll need to make an informed decision and the newspaper coverage might not give you the neighborhood specific viewpoint I've provided here.
Superintendent Jay Badams said this evening there will be plenty of opportunities for people to provide their input. Please take advantage of these opportunities, I plan to!