School officials are discussing with Diocese of Cleveland officials the possibility of using the closed St. Richard School for North Olmsted middle school students while a new sixth- through 12th-grade school is built.
Officials closed St. Richard school at the end of the 2012-2013 school year, citing declining enrollment and rising costs. The school, which housed kindergarten through eighth-grade students, opened in 1950. It had gone from a high enrollment of around 500 students down to 248 when its impending closing was announced in early 2013.
North Olmsted City Schools Superintendent Mike Zalar said the district is considering St. Richard as one option. In the district’s plan, the middle and high school students will be placed in separate wings in the new school. School officials must find a place to put middle school students after the current school is closed (expected at the end of the current school year) and ultimately demolished.
“We are working on multiple parts of a large endeavor simultaneously,” Zalar said. “Part of the planning process for the successful move of our students out of the middle school is to look at all of our options carefully and work towards the optimal solution. One of those options is moving the seventh and eighth grade to the St. Richard’s building.
“We’ve been very methodical and diligent in keeping our main objective front and center, and that is to minimize disruption for our students and their parents. Nothing definite has been finalized other than the desire to have the students and staff successfully moved out of the middle school by the start of the new school year. We have been very busy since the passage of the bond issue. As the facts become firm, we will let everyone know so that the community will have facts and not rumors or misinformation.”
When contacted, North Olmsted school board President John Lasko said he has taken himself out of any discussion of the potential use of St. Richard because he also is a member of the St. Richard Parish Finance Council.
“I literally have left the room, because clearly St. Richard would benefit financially if the district and the diocese choose to reach an agreement allowing the North Olmsted City Schools to use the old St. Richard site while the new district middle school is built,” he said.
Diocese officials could not be reached for comment in time for this story.
Like other Catholic schools, the St. Richard building is used at times for charter school activities. If an agreement is reached with North Olmsted City Schools, diocese officials likely would have to stop letting charter schools use the facility.
In a related matter, Zalar said the district and the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission (OFCC) have selected the four finalists to provide professional design services for the new educational campus.
He noted nine firms sent in a Request for Qualifications application. After reviewing the applications with the OFCC,the four firms are: Architectural Vision Group Ltd. (AVG); Glaus, Pyle, Schomer, Burns & DeHaven Inc. dba GPD Group (GPD); Lesko Associates Inc.; and ThenDesign Architecture Ltd.(TDA).
Zalar said finalists were determined based on a criteria framework that included five major areas set forth by the OFCC, including overall team experience with the scope, size and delivery methods of a project like the one to be built in North Olmsted. He said the four finalists will be briefed together tomorrow on the community’s expectations for the project, including the commitment to reface Butternut Ridge Road into a coordinated campus that complements the Western Reserve architecture of the North Olmsted Library and respects the historic district. In the briefing, the finalists will also be directed to formulate their presentation on a workable model for 21st century teaching and learning.