PARMA, OHIO (WJW) – Voters rejected the Parma City School District bond issue with 52 percent of people voting against it compared to 48 percent who supported building a new high school.
If passed, the bond issue would have allowed the district to borrow up to $195 million for the new school and other improvements.
“We will demolish Parma Sr. High and we won’t have a building to replace it,” said Superintendent Charles Smialek. “Initially at least, until we would pass a bond issue.”
Smialek said the district’s plan to consolidate will move forward. Only now when demolition begins at Parma Senior High School next year nothing will replace it.
“We were hopeful we could build a new high school and it could be one centrally located high school for the entire district obviously at this point that’s not going to be a reality,” said Smialek.
Parma Senior High School students will be split between Normandy and Valley Forge High Schools. Smialek said the remaining high schools have the capacity to acquire the additional students. The new building would have accommodated 3,000 students.
Failure to capture voter support for the school district is an all too familiar battle.
“Since the year 2000, we’ve now asked for money 22 times, and been successful three of them and one of those was a very small bond issue,” said Smialek. “It’s been a tough go.”
Some voters who did not support the bond issue said the decision came down to finances surrounding other issues on the ballot.
“To me maintaining the Metroparks and the Port Authority was more of a priority to me as a voter,” said Linda Nicklas. “I don’t have kids so I don’t understand the urgency but maybe if I had children maybe I would.”
A high school parent who voted for the bond issue said the outcome was disappointing.
“Help the next generation out to survive because without the tools to survive which is their education they’re not going to,” the parent said.
The Parma City School District is one of the largest in Cuyahoga County. It would have received $72 million dollars from the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission towards the cost of the new high school.
“You’re always trying to convince people it’s about more than your kid, your family,” said Smialek. “It’s about your property value, it’s about your community.”
The superintendent said the amount of money the bond issue asked voters to support is exactly what was needed to build a new school. The price of construction Smialek said was set by the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission.
Smialek said the cost to homeowners would have been “$11.53 cents per $100,000 per month.”
So, what went wrong with the district’s pitch to voters this time around?
“There’s a number of factors,” said Smialek. “First, we have 110,000 residents in the district that live in the district. We have approximately 9,100 kids that are actually attending our public school system. That’s a large gap between residents and people who have a tangible tie right now to the school district.”