Beyond the inconvenience of moving sporting events, the shutdown of the Raider Dome required Cleveland High School administrators and teachers to quickly find creative solutions for the displaced classes.
Principal Autumn O’Bryan said six instructional spaces, in addition to the gym, were lost in the dome shutdown. The shutdown and subsequent blocking off of the dome were the result of a recent structural analysis completed on the facility. City school administrators immediately enacted a contingency plan to close the dome which was later approved by the Board of Education.
About 300 to 400 students utilized the classroom space at any given time throughout the school day. These classes included, but were not limited to: physical education, wellness classes, aerobics, weight training, personal fitness, driver education and electives like leadership. A majority of the classes relocated to the science wing, the Jones Wrestling Center and two rooms near the old junior high gym.
The last empty classroom was filled due to the recent transition.
“We are certainly tightening up. We are not over capacity by any means,” O’Bryan said. “We are at the point where our space is limited, and we have to be very selective with where we move people and what we do with them.”
Physical education classes conducted in the old junior high gym require male and female locker rooms. City school maintenance workers began renovations on the old junior high cafeteria to meet the need. Walls have been built to provide privacy. O’Bryan said the cafeteria renovation is the largest makeover, because the space was not intended to be a locker room. She said the space is in close proximity to the gym and easy to monitor.
Prior to the dome shutdown, the old junior high cafeteria was used for storage space. Two external storage units have been utilized to manage items taken from the cafeteria and the lower level of the dome. Additional storage space has been found throughout the school. O’Bryan said weight room equipment has been split between the football field house, the wrestling center and the two storage units.
P.E., wellness and other teachers from the lower level were given two days to remove equipment from the dome.
“The teachers have been just awesome. They have stepped up to the plate and not complained,” O’Bryan said. “Teachers in other departments helped them during their planning period last week. I would go down there and there would be English teachers and math teachers carrying what they could to help them.”
She described the spirit of the teachers and students as resilient. The same spirit will be needed as the high school faces the challenge of unprecedentedly large incoming freshman classes from the middle school.
According to O’Bryan, the 2013-14 freshmen class and senior class numbers were 370 and 270 respectively. Projections reveal the high school will see roughly 450 incoming freshmen for the next three years. The school is at the point where transit teachers and combined classrooms are the next option.
O’Bryan said the administrators recognize they must be frugal and strategic with space. Conversations currently center around plans for the next two to three years. It is understood the gym will not be immediately demolished and reconstructed. The loss of the large space means schoolwide assemblies, programs like the one for Veterans Day and basketball games will need creative alternatives.
The basketball team moved practices to the old junior high gym. Games have taken place at Cleveland Middle School’s gym, which only has six less seats than the dome. Additional space has been offered by Lee University and Cleveland State.
O’Bryan said everyone from the students to the system administrators have responded well to the news and subsequent transition.
“I love this system because of the family atmosphere and the strong support of the director of schools [Martin Ringstaff] and the school board,” O’Bryan said. “For something like this large to happen without huge dynamic shifts is awesome.”
Ringstaff said he hopes the county and city governments recognize the need to act quickly on both the demolition and construction of a new gym facility.
More information on the current status of the dome and future plans will be determined at the Jan. 6 session of the Cleveland Board of Education.