As Lorain City Schools continues to develop opportunities for our students to develop and grow, we have been excited to welcome many new students to our schools. At the same time, this influx of students increases our need for space for students, staff and programming.
This past year our team has been keeping a watchful eye on our enrollment while planning for the future by exploring all available opportunities to address our increased need for space within our schools and through our many community partnerships.
The information below details the full scope of our challenges with the understanding that we haven't come to any solutions at this point. The following highlights the critical needs revealed in our evolving assessment of district facilities.
HERE'S WHAT WE'VE LEARNED:
Our preschool students need space.
We currently have 90 students on a waiting list (and are turning away even more) to get into our award-winning preschool program. This means that families in Lorain want their children to be better prepared for kindergarten in our school system, but our lack of space prevents us from providing them with that critical opportunity. As you know, the early years of a child's learning experience heavily predicate their continued success in school. We must provide our families with these early learning opportunities so that their children can build a strong foundation in social, pre-academic, and general life skills that will give them a leg up in school and beyond. Research shows that children who graduate from preschool have improved academic readiness, lower incarceration rates, and higher earnings.
>>>Therefore, at a minimum, we need five additional classrooms. In reality, we expect we'll need closer to ten additional classrooms.
Our students with severe autism need space.
Prior to the 2021/2022 school year, we were not providing an education for our students with severe autism beyond the fifth grade. Under the direction of Linda Coad, our director of services for exceptional students, we believe our program can meet the needs of a vast majority of our students beyond elementary school. However, programs designed to serve students with severe autism require additional space because of the need for small class sizes.
>>>Again, in order to build a program that is best suited to our staff and students' needs, we need more space.
Our students who are struggling need space.
Prior to the 2020/2021 school year, the alternative school model we had been following was completely reactive. In the past we identified students who were credit deficient or otherwise struggling in high school and we provided a personalized education in an attempt to get them the credits they need to graduate in an expedited manner.
Our new model takes a more proactive approach by identifying students long before they are credit deficient to make sure they have the supports they need to stay on track for graduation. In order to accomplish this, we now identify students much earlier – sometimes even in early middle school -- and provide them with the guidance and supports they need to be successful when they move up to the high school.
Over the past seven years we have engaged two nationally respected consulting groups to evaluate our alternative school program and to work with our staff to provide the quality services our students need. Both highly recommended that our alternative school should have its own space.
>>>Again, in order to accomplish this, we need more space to grow the program.
Our staff need space for professional development, meeting and collaboration.
Currently, if we want to have a meeting during the school day, we cannot accommodate more than 14 people. As a result, we have to find space outside our district – we typically meet on the LCCC Elyria campus. This is incredibly inconvenient and inefficient as it keeps our administrators away from their buildings and our teachers away from our students for much longer than is necessary.
As a district in academic distress, we clearly need to professionally develop our staff and, as we shared, we don’t have a space in our district (that we’re currently using) that can accommodate the size of meetings we need to have.
Our plan that will remove us from the consequences of HB70 is a reprioritized version of our “We Believe” district strategic plan. It outlines an accelerated, aggressive timeline to assure that our students have time to benefit from the newly developed skills of our staff. Providing the training necessary for our staff to master the required skills requires the choreography of time and space.
>>>In short, we have a great deal of work to do in a very short period of time and we currently lack the space necessary to conduct it during the workday.
The expansion of our arts program needs space.
Arts education is associated with lower dropout rates, as well as better academic outcomes. Studying the arts promotes academic self-efficacy and school engagement (predictors of persistence to graduation), and it enhances socio-emotional skills valued in social relationships, the workplace, and education settings. Further, students who are engaged in the arts have better attendance -- and we need our students here at school in order to provide them with the education they need to succeed.
>>>But again, we need space to successfully implement this programming.
Our enrollment is increasing.
Early in the 2021 calendar year we engaged a consulting firm specializing in projecting student enrollment for school districts. For a variety of reasons (our improved ability to attract and retain students, a growing population in the city of Lorain, and the challenges of COVID among them) their numbers are very far off.
The culmination of the above factors indicate we might need to repurpose how we are currently using many of our buildings.
Our school district's primary and fiduciary responsibility is to meet the educational needs of the school-aged children in our district as we continue to build quality programming for those we serve. We will continue to communicate with you our progress with our facility assessment, which we believe will include more realistic student enrollment projections. As always, we will share such information widely and openly through our many communications channels.