Canton residents react to plan to combine McKinley, Timken high schools

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CANTON, Ohio- Emotions ran high at a local school board meeting, as the Canton schools superintendent outlined a plan to merge both high schools into one.

Some residents booed as superintendent Adrian Allison addressed the school board at a special meeting Wednesday night.

Under his proposal, Timken High School in the northeast part of town would close and all 10th-12th grade students in the city would go to McKinley High School near the Pro Football Hall of Fame.  The Timken building will be used as a Freshman Academy for ninth graders.

"McKinley has a national, state and local brand, that it's the oldest high school in this city and it's named after a U.S. president and his family," said Allison.

"Why not consider calling it Canton Senior High School or Timken McKinley High School or McKinley Timken? They've blatantly washed our face, and smashed our face in the mud and disregarded the entire Timken people," said Timken alumnus Bill Trbovich.

Most of the audience consisted of Timken alumni and current students and their parents.  They said they are disappointed their school might close and that McKinley will keep its name, mascot and school colors.

"I could cry, I really could. It just makes me awfully sad," said Timken alumnae Ruthanne Sergi.

"I don't want to be a Bulldog; I want to be a Trojan. I want to graduate a Trojan," said current Timken student Laishawn Hudson.

The superintendent said he is focusing on the long-term outlook for the district.

According to Allison, the City of Canton has lost 30,000 residents since 1976.

He said, in 2002, the district had 10,900 students; it's now down to more than 8,500, a 21-percent decrease in enrollment.

In 2002, McKinley High School alone had 1,990 students. Now there are 1,380 10th through 12th graders in the entire district.  He also projected in five years, 480 more students will leave the district.

Even some McKinley students are concerned about the plan.

"It's gonna be too crowded and everything; I don't think it's a good idea," said current McKinley student Regina Jennings.

"I was raised McKinley pride. Timken students that go to Timken are Timken pride, so I mean, I don't know; it's just different," said McKinley alumnae Brandee Baker.

"It's best opportunities for our children, with the money that we will save by just having one school. These are just recommendations. You will have an opportunity to speak out; we will listen," said school board member Ida Ross Freeman.

Canton residents will get a chance to voice their opinions on the proposal during two public meetings.  The first will be held January 21 at Timken High School.  The second will be held the next day at McKinley High.

The board is expected to take a final vote on the plan February 25.


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