Akron superintendent says hundreds of teachers, staff could be laid off due to deficit

Parents fighting suggeted school closings

AKRON, Ohio - During his annual state of the schools address, superintendent David James said there could be as many as 300 layoffs among teachers and staff in the Akron Public Schools due to a $22 million deficit.

"The staff reductions will be significant," James warned during a question and answer session, following his speech at the Martin Center Wednesday afternoon.

The estimate of 300 layoffs was a worst-case scenario. James said there will be other ways of reducing the deficit so it won't fall entirely on the staff.

"Every facet of our district will be scrutinized to find more areas to reduce," James said.

The district is seeking a new levy on the November ballot. James said the drastic cuts will take place even if the levy passes. He said he may have to slash an additional $22 million or more, if the levy fails.

"We have to face a harsh reality. Local property values continue to decline and the state faces its own budget issues," James said.

James has also recommended closing three elementary schools- Barrett Elementary, Rankin Elementary and Essex Elementary.

James said the number of students attending Akron Public Schools has fallen by one-third in the last 20 years.

"This is not an indictment of the hard-working staff at each of these schools. It is the fiscal reality that we face each and every day," James said.

Many parents are showing up at school meetings to fight the recommended closures. A fiery crowd complained to the superintendent during a meeting at Barrett Elementary on Tuesday night.

One man in the crowd yelled, "This is stupid!"

Meetings are also planned for Wednesday evening at Rankin Elementary and Essex Elementary.

Christina Lowman's daughter is a second-grader at Essex. Lowman passed out "Save Essex Elementary" fliers in her neighborhood and plans to make her voice heard at Wednesday's meeting.

"I was very tearful when I found out the school was going to close. It really broke my heart. It's not just a school. It's family to me," Lowman said.

Kristy Johnson, a kindergarten teacher at Essex, is worried about her job. She has been with the district for five years.

"I'm very young with the district, five years in, so with layoffs and budget cuts, I do have worries that I may have to find some other avenue for work," Johnson said.

The Akron School Board could vote on the recommendations to close the three elementary schools as early as next Monday.

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