Board Considers Recommendation for Language Immersion Schools

Sep 5, 2012

Parents of children in Columbus' two language immersion programs will have to wait a while longer to find out where their news schools will be.

Alison Holm reports.


Earlier this year, the school board halted plans to bring together Ecole Kenwood and the Columbus Spanish Immersion Academy in a renovated and expanded Indianola Middle School.  The district had already spent a million dollars when it was discovered the architect had lost his required majority partner, and the project was over budget.  District officials opted to step back and reconsider the options.  Last night, facilities director Carol Olshavsky made a recommendation to the board that would renovate a building for one program, build a new one for the other -- and allow both of the popular schools to expand.

Olshavsky: this is the most cost effective of those solutions,  it provides the most space for the most children, at the best price.  Both schools have asked for expansion space: this gives them that. It allows us to consider adding pre-K which would be new for those.  We have the choice of adding other languages, looking at different grade configurations... I think it gives us the most flexibility for those schools as well as the whole feeder pattern, and still the ability to stay within our preferred size for our buildings.  So we aren't building too large of a building or too small of a building.

The administrations recommendation to the board adds $4.8 million to the existing $26 million price tag, money that would come out of the contingency fund budgeted for the current phase of construction.  Ecole Kenwood, the French immersion school, would get a new building on it's existing site. The Spanish Immersion academy would move into a renovated Clinton Middle School.  Both schools would be able to add pre-kindergarten and expand to 600 students. Olashavsky says that expansion would permit the popular programs to grow, without saddling the district with a single building too big to re-purpose if enrollment declines.  Olashavsky says it also gives the district some time to decide what to do with Indianola Middle school.

Olshavsky:  We can hold on to it for 2 years, before we'd have to make a decision on selling it or leasing it.  I really don't want to leave it empty 2 more years. It's expensive from a utilities standpoint, and number two, that building because of it's historic significance, the longer it sits empty the more it's going to deteriorate.  So, trying to be a good steward of that property, I'd like to try and find a use for it sooner rather than later.

Olshavsky says with updated cost estimates from the Ohio Schools Facilities Commission, the school board could vote on the recommendation by mid-October, before the next meeting of the Neighborhood Schools Development Partnership, the independent panel charged with overseeing the districts building plans.