Twenty Columbus schools could close under school board proposal

Following a Columbus City Schools board meeting on Tuesday, members of the Columbus Education Justice Coalition spoke out against the school closing recommendations.
Stuart McIntyre of the Columbus Education Justice Coalition speaks to reporters ahead of the board meeting. Those opposing school building closures stand behind him wearing red in solidarity.
Stuart McIntyre of the Columbus Education Justice Coalition speaks to reporters ahead of the board meeting. Those opposing school building closures stand behind him wearing red in solidarity.Christy Williams

The Community Facilities Task Force at Columbus City Schools presented its initial building consolidation and closing recommendations to the CCS Board of Education during a Tuesday board meeting. Much to the dismay of many present students, parents and staff, 20 school buildings were named for potential closure, with the shutdowns slated for the beginning of the 2025-26 school year. 

“There's not a single scenario that takes into consideration the students, which need to be their priority,” said Kelsey Gray, a teacher at Independence High School. “Not one scenario takes parents into consideration. And not one scenario takes educators or staff into consideration.” 

There were six scenarios presented to the school board. Included in the proposed scenarios are the consolidation of schools, adjustment of grade bands at various buildings, and building closures.

“Our vision for this work is to realign our learning communities in service of expanding programming for students, and to be aligned with the needs of our evolving community and region,” said CCS Superintendent Dr. Angela Chapman. “We intend to maximize our resources to provide our more robust academic and extracurricular programming, including the arts and athletics at all of our schools.” 

Chapman also said that CCS spends more on facilities and maintenance per school than other similarly sized districts across the nation.

At the end of April, Columbus Education Association president John Coneglio resigned from the Task Force, citing his perspective that the Task Force was focused on closing school buildings rather than on the transformation and growth of the district to meet needs. “Clearly, they don’t want true input. They never have. And that’s why I left the Task Force,” Coneglio said. “The district needs to figure out how they're going to start bringing people back into the district, not abandoning neighborhoods.” 

The superintendent was adamant that the scenarios presented at the Tuesday meeting were just initial recommendations, and that final recommendations would not be decided upon until the middle of June. The Columbus Education Justice Coalition (CEJC), a group of community activists advocating for equitable education for CCS students, is demanding that these final recommendations be put on hold until a later date. 

“With no school closures actually slated until the 2025-2026 academic year, an aggressive city growth plan in the works, and the vital school district transformation initiatives underway, we demand that the Board not act prematurely,” the CEJC wrote in a statement. 

The CEJC is also demanding that the district plan ahead for the forecasted rapid growth of the city rather than closing buildings. “We are on the cusp of a massive growth here in Columbus,” said Marielle Heanult, a CCS parent and a steering committee member of the CEJC. “And we should be preparing for that future by building more schools and rehabilitating our schools, not closing our schools and pushing students out of their neighborhoods and communities.”

The district has organized a number of forums in the next month to allow the community to engage with district leaders about proposed building consolidation and closures. However, CCS advocates are wary as to whether these events will allow community members to voice their opinions of the district’s future plans. “I am very frustrated with the superintendent’s insistence that they are engaging the community,” Heanult said. “Because every single time they say they are having some sort of an engagement session, it is a speech from them to us, the community, and it is not actual true engagement.”

The CEJC is urging concerned community members to come forward and voice their opinions to district leaders.

“In this pivotal moment, we strongly encourage parents, students, educators and any concerned citizens to join us, raise your voice, and speak directly to our elected school board,” said Stuart McIntyre, a steering committee member of the CEJC. “We really feel you can be a partner with us in building this bigger, better future.”

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