July 2, 2016

Mostly clear

Elementary school’s teacher night could be its last

“Meet Your Teacher” night Thursday at Heritage Elementary School was exciting and chaotic — with students running around and slurping ice cream from the cafeteria.

It also was bittersweet for many because it might be the beginning of the final year the school is open.

From left, James Feeks, 9, his mother, Kate Feeks, and Heritage Elementary School Principal Carol Starrick say goodbye after the school’s “Meet Your Teacher” night Thursday. (GAZETTE PHOTO BY KIERA MANION-FISCHER)

If the five-year, 5.9-mill levy fails on the November ballot, Medina Schools administrators have announced the school will close in the 2014-15 school year, and the district will switch to a “banded elementary school concept.”

“It will be difficult because they’ll shift buildings every two years,” said Traci Linn, a third-grade teacher going into her 24th year at Heritage. “It will be harder for teachers to keep track of kids.”

In a display of school pride, all Heritage staff wore T-shirts saying, “Heritage: Strong in the neighborhood since 1976.”

“We are here, we are strong,” special education teacher Mandy Riegler said. “The levy doesn’t just affect us. It affects every single building.”

A staff member came up with the idea to make shirts, and Principal Carol Starrick and other administrators came up with the slogan.

“It’s not a campaign thing, but we just wanted to honor the years it’s been here,” Starrick said as she greeted parents and returning students, some with hugs.

The school is a little maze-like — with no interior walls between classrooms. The rooms are separated by large bookshelves.

Starrick said this design was a trend when the school was built to allow for changing class sizes and classroom needs.

This year, the school will house about 390 students, she said.

School officials have said Heritage was chosen for closure because it has the highest utility costs per square foot even though it is the smallest school in the district.

One parent, Medina resident Meghan Owings, said she was “frustrated, very frustrated and sad” at the thought of losing Heritage.

Owings has two children at the school, who will be in first and fourth grades this year. She said that even though she was disappointed in Superintendent Randy Stepp and board members who voted for his new contract, which has fueled controversy, she said she still would vote for the levy.

“I went to a public school,” she said.

Another mother, Kate Feeks, also with two children at the school, said she lives right across the street.

“I would be devastated if it closed down,” she said. “I’ve lived in this neighborhood my whole entire life.”

In contrast, gym teacher Brett Smith is new to the school. Smith is starting his first year at Heritage. He said he was praying and hoping for the best.

“It’s exciting to have a job,” he said. “But, wow. This might be a one-year gig.”

Contact reporter Kiera Manion-Fischer at (330) 721-4049 or kfischer@medina-gazette.com.