City seeks to use former Prospect School building for community space – The Oberlin Review


On July 14, city officials met with faculty, parents and recreation staff to consider how the recently disused Prospect Elementary School building could be transformed into a multi-purpose community center. Ideas for the project include turning the space into a dog park, a senior center, Oberlin Recreation Department offices, and a Head Start program. The city council will vote on a final decision at the end of September.

After operating since 1887 and 1955 respectively, Prospect and Eastwood Elementary Schools closed this spring. Next fall, their students will move into a newly built elementary school next to the high school, a project that the Oberlin City Schools has been working since 2018. Many community members present at the session expressed a direct interest in Prospect continuing to provide space for young people. Oberlin resident Erica Bigham spent eight summers in Prospect’s Playground Experience’s summer camp program before applying to join her staff and hopes to see the recreation department run children’s programs there in the future.

Community members covered the municipal administration suggestion boards with ideas for the old elementary school.

“My relationship with the building is a bit personal, because I feel like I really grew up in this building, especially over the summer,” Bigham said, “My specific hope is that we can make it just a recreation building where we can have our programs for the recreation department all year round.

Melissa Stalnaker, one of Prospect’s former teachers and substitute librarians, also highlighted Oberlin’s need for a space for young people.

“There isn’t much for teens to do in this city,” she said. “There is the bridge, [Oberlin Community Technology Center], but it is very small, and it is not sufficient for the needs of adolescents. And it would be really wonderful to have a space suitable for teenagers, a space that they can make their own and where they can go and feel comfortable. Because if you don’t give the kids something to do, sometimes they find things to do, and that can cause problems.

Other ideas proposed for the space involved creating a space for the elderly, either a community center or affordable housing for the elderly. City council member Kristen Peterson noted that the senior citizen space would potentially occupy the second floor of the building, with elevator access. Residents and visiting seniors might be able to interact with a space for young children or a Head Start program below, following the example of the Kendal Early Learning Center.

During the entrance session, concerns were expressed that the ceilings contain asbestos, an insulating material that becomes carcinogenic when disturbed. Community members also raised concerns about leaks and uninsulated windows.

City Manager Rob Hillard explained that the City was bringing in engineers to inspect the building for any updates and security issues for the remainder of July. They will also calculate the initial and recurring costs.

The murals from the old primary school that some members of the community hope will be preserved when the building is next used.

“We are really looking forward to looking at the data and the notes and just seeing the common themes evaluated in the facility in terms of cost and safety, making the decision here within the next month,” Hillard said.

In 2018, The city council voted a tax, which dramatically increased residential property taxes for nearly 40 years, to build the consolidated school system that Eastwood and Prospect students will enter this fall. With this expense already on the books, the costs of updating the Prospect building may cause some hesitation.

Another nascent debate has emerged around the possibility of making the backyard of the Prospect building a dog park. Adding public parks to the city’s west side has long been of interest to some residents, and over the past year, Stalnaker said dog owners have started letting their dogs and children play in the space every day. days between 4:30 p.m. and 6 p.m.

“It kind of started during the pandemic, and it has only been blossoming since,” Stalnaker said. “And the word got around, and dogs are having a good time, humans are having a good time, and I’d be really sad to see that go away.” So I hope there is a way for them to [continue], although there were only certain hours.

During the pandemic, neighboring residents started a daily congregation on the back yard of the school to let their dogs and children play.

However, according to Ian Yarbor, superintendent of the recreation department, this is not guaranteed to happen. Yarbor explained that leaving your dog off-leash on school property actually violates city law, and he recommended that community members use the dog park located on Splash Zone property.

Once the building has undergone a safety and cost investigation in July, community members will again be able to speak out at city council meetings in August and September. However, Hillard urges that they contact him directly before that date.

“I would suggest that if people are interested and want to engage in this conversation, that they engage quickly and contact me so that we can talk about their ideas, concerns, questions,” he said. declared. “It’s about right and wrong and the indifferent, so I’m really interested in the comments. “

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