Shaker Schools seek to make a ‘comfortable’ transition for displaced Fernway students

August 2, 2018

Shaker Schools seek to make a ‘comfortable’ transition for displaced Fernway students

SHAKER HEIGHTS, Ohio -- About 200 residents turned out Wednesday for a community meeting to learn more about the Shaker Heights City School District’s plans to place and make comfortable in their new surroundings Fernway School students displaced by a July 10 fire.

At the meeting, held in the upper cafeteria at Shaker Heights High School, residents -- as they have in the past -- offered to help the district, showed support and even applauded the work and planning already done.

The day before, at a school board work session, it was announced that the approximately 300 Fernway Elementary School students would be attending classes in three other district buildings come the first day of school on Aug. 20.

Fernway kindergartners will be assigned to Onaway Elementary School, and first-graders to Boulevard Elementary. Second- through fourth-graders will be attending classes at Woodbury Elementary, a school that already houses fifth- and sixth-graders.

Robert Mays, a father of two daughters, ages 11 and 8, was pleased with the solution.

“My older daughter is going into the sixth grade at Woodbury and my younger one is going into the third grade, so she’ll be going to Woodbury, too,” he said. “The fact that my younger daughter is going to be relocated to the same school is perfect.”

Of the work of the district in the wake of the fire, Mays said: “I’ve been impressed. Based on all that I’ve read and the questions I’ve asked, they’ve been thorough in turning over every rock to make sure that this has all been done well. Things will be a little snug and cozy in the schools, but it will work out.”

Although the Fernway students will be spread out over three buildings, the school’s principal, Chris Hayward, whose office will be at Woodbury, said, “My goal is to integrate as many of the hallmarks of Fernway as possible.”

That, he said, will include the annual Fernway third-grade musical.

Shaker Heights Recreation Director Alexandria Nichols said that the before- and after-school programs will be continued as in the past for Fernway students and parents, and that registration for the programs began Wednesday.

Transportation schedules have also been set up and will soon be available on the Shaker Schools website.

Fernway students, no matter what school they will attend, will not be walking to their buildings.

“I don’t want to see any Fernway students walking across Lee (Road) or Van Aken (Boulevard),” Hayward told parents. After the meeting, Hayward said, “I don’t want Fernway students crossing any streets.”

A school district employee will be on each school bus to reassure the Fernway students, some of whom have never before taken a bus.

“We’re going to make sure (students) are as comfortable as possible,” Hayward said.

Hayward also said that Fernway kindergartners and first-graders will enjoy recess with their new schoolmates, but that second- through fourth-graders will not have recess at the same time as the fifth- and sixth-graders at Woodbury School. The students will all eat with their new schoolmates.

″(Fernway students) will be able to make friends with other students from across the city that they wouldn’t otherwise get to meet,” said Hayward, who will spend time at all three schools.

When asked a question from the audience about how long the Fernway students would remain in the other school buildings, Interim Superintendent Stephen Wilkins said: “We believe this shared space plan is for the duration of the year. It’s best to keep it settled so kids don’t have to make another transition.”

Added Hayward, “If it’s not working, we’re going to do right by our kids.” But, he said, “We’re confident it’s going to work.”

Wilkins said that a temporary roof must first be put atop the historic Fernway School building, 17420 Fernway Road, before a full assessment can be made as to when or if the building can again serve as a school.

Hayward assembled a community focus group that helped the school district make decisions about where students would be placed. The group looked at other possible locations for Fernway students, but it was ultimately determined that Shaker Schools buildings offered the best alternative.

Executive Director of Curriculum Instruction David Glasner said the three-school plan presented is cost effective and “allows the ‘Shaker experience’ for all of our students.”

As they have at past meetings, residents offered to help the district in any way possible.

Holly Coughlin, executive director of the Shaker Schools Foundation, said interested parties locally and around the country have already donated more than $26,000 to the Fernway Fund to ensure that teachers and students have all they need when the new school year begins.

One 1990 graduate of Shaker Heights High, who did not attend Fernway, has already staged a fundraiser and turned over $1,400 to the foundation, Coughlin said.

Anyone wishing to donate to the Fernway Fund can do so at shaker.org/foundation.

Meanwhile, the PTO has a number of fundraising activities coming up.

One is the 4x1 Mile Shaker Red Raider Relay, which will start at 4 p.m. Aug. 18 at the high school, 15911 Aldersyde Drive, and will benefit the high school cross country team and Fernway. Check-in time is 3 to 3:50 p.m.

A parent-student ice cream social will be held Aug. 20 so that students can see their new schools in an informal way.

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