CUYAHOGA FALLS — The state will take over operation of Schnee Learning Center, and the board of education must draft a new lease agreement to cover the next year’s rent.
The Cuyahoga Falls school board has approved a settlement agreement with the Ohio Department of Education, which will result in the district’s loss of sponsorship for Schnee Learning Center effective May 1.
Under the agreement, the ODE will assume sponsorship of the community school "at least through June 30, 2019." The department "will evaluate the school before determining whether to continue sponsorship," according to the agreement. The school district’s appeal of the ODE’s revocation will be dismissed.
The district had been in the process of appealing its "poor" rating as a sponsor district by the Ohio Department of Education.
Brian DeSantis of Pepple & Waggoner Ltd. in Cleveland, which represented the district in this case, said in a meeting earlier this month regarding Schnee that one of the issues had to do with paperwork which was reportedly not filed. A big part of the problem with continuing an appeal was the high cost and low chance of success, DeSantis said.
Superintendent Dr. Todd Nichols previously said the state never told the district there had been an issue with the paperwork until they received its rating from the ODE.
Despite the school district’s poor sponsorship rating, Schnee Learning Center was the only Dropout Prevention/Credit Recovery school in the state to rank "exceeds expectations" in almost every category by ODE in this year’s school report cards.
"I’m disappointed," said board member David Martin at the board’s April 4 meeting. "I know there were extenuating circumstances, but I feel we failed the staff and kids over there."
Nichols said during the board meeting that while the district’s sponsorship would be revoked, the services the district offers to the learning center, such as internet, would remain in place at least through 2020. The lease agreement also would remain. Nichols said he hoped the school could find a new sponsor by the end of the next school year.
Martin said he would like to see the school board review the lease agreement between the district and Schnee.
Paul V. Colavecchio, the board president of Schnee Learning Center, said rent is about $10,000 a month. He said Schnee currently has 107 students.
"What will happen to those kids if Schnee doesn’t continue?" Colavecchio asked. "I've done a walk-through of that building, and you may have trouble selling it or finding another renter. We are not in a position to be squeezed right now. Considering the condition of the building, I think we need a break."
Colavecchio said the Schnee board can draft together a lease proposal to bring before the board, which could be reviewed as early as the Cuyahoga Falls School Board’s first May meeting.
Schnee Learning Center has roughly 100 students at any given point in the school year. It serves as a second-chance school for students who wish to obtain their diploma but have experienced problems in a regular school setting.
Reporter April Helms can be reached at 330-541-9423, firstname.lastname@example.org, or ??@AprilKHelms_RPC??