LORAIN — Faculty and students of Lorain Community Elementary and Middle schools have a new home.
Classes began Thursday in the new location at 1110 W. Fourth St. The new home is the former Irving Junior High School, which was sold by Lorain Schools for $246,000 earlier this year to Constellation Schools, the private, for-profit charter school company that operates the schools.
Charter schools are publicly funded, privately run schools that are touted by proponents as innovative alternatives to traditional public schools.
Lorain Schools — which is expected to become insolvent in April and be taken over by the state — has lost some 3,000 students over the last decade, many to charter schools like Constellation where enrollment in Lorain is growing.
Lorain Elementary, which is kindergarten through fourth grade, has about 220 students, an increase of about 50 students from the 2011-12 school year, according to Principal Melisa Shady who is also principal of the middle school. Lorain Middle, which is fifth through eighth grade, has about 130 students, up about 25 students.
“We’re practically full at every grade level,” Shady said during a Tuesday open house for parents and students. “It’s just exploded.”
Shady, a former Cleveland Schools teacher and Constellation employee since 2004, received hugs from several parents as she walked through the approximately 76,000-square foot building, which was built in 1921. Parents and staff were all smiles as they inspected the classrooms, which include computers and touch screen white boards. The building also has a music room, science lab and a gym that doubles as a cafeteria.
Shady attributed the increased enrollment to good academics and low student-to-teacher ratios. All 19 of the Parma-based Constellation schools were rated “excellent,” “effective” or in “continuous improvement” in 2010-11. Lorain Elementary was rated excellent while Lorain Middle was rated in “continuous improvement,” meeting three of the 11 state indicators of proficiency.
The student-to-teacher ratio at Constellation’s Lorain schools is about 22-to-1 in kindergarten through sixth grade and 24-to-1 in seventh and eighth grades, Shady said.
In Lorain Schools, where 182 employees were laid off in June to cut $7.3 million of a $12 million projected deficit, the ratio in the last school year was 25-to-1 in kindergarten through third grade. In fourth grade through seventh grade, the ratio was about 29-to-1. In ninth through 12th grade, the ratio was between 28-and-30-to-1.
Low ratios and the new building have faculty like science teacher Bob Meagrow excited.
“I can’t wait to start,” said Meagrow, a Constellation employee since 2007. “The attitude of all the teachers is much, much better coming into a new building.”
Constellation also offers full-day kindergarten, which Lorain school officials reluctantly cut this year to save $737,000. Parent Brandon Roach said full-day kindergarten was one of the reasons he enrolled his 5-year-old son, Brandon Roach Jr., at Constellation.
“I’m just trying to have my child put the best foot forward in the school,” Roach said. “I do understand how important it is.”
Contact Evan Goodenow at 329-7129 or email@example.com.