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UA trustees agree to buy high school building from Akron district

By Carol Biliczky
Beacon Journal staff writer

If the University of Akron takes over Central-Hower High School, perhaps about 20 Akron Public School students would get full scholarships to attend UA each year.

UA trustees agreed Wednesday to provide $13.5 million in free tuition to select Akron students as payment for the city’s oldest high school building.

The agreement stalled at the Akron Board of Education meeting Monday when some members suggested the payment be put in an interest-bearing account that would be self-sustaining.

Superintendent David James said that was never part of the state legislation that authorized the transfer. He said UA and the district always intended the payment to be made through services to students.

“My recommendation always has been to pass this agreement because it’s in the best interest of our kids,” he said. “I think that it just might be the spark that could ignite some interest in our community to get that post-secondary education.”

The school board will reconsider the transfer Monday.

In the meantime, there appears to be no question from UA officials about their desire for the 230,000-square-foot building on the north side of campus.

“This is a great public-public partnership for the good of the citizens of Akron,” UA Provost Mike Sherman said.

“This may prevent us from having to build another academic building,” said Ted Curtis, UA vice president for capital planning and facilities management.

No final decisions have been made on what to do with the building, he said.

While the Akron district’s specialized high school for science, technology, engineering and math would stay at Central-Hower by paying rent, the university would have plenty of space to expand and relocate other programs.

In the short term, the university would use Central-Hower as swing space for construction projects, Curtis said.

For instance, UA is poised to spend about $12 million starting next summer to remodel Zook Hall for the College of Education. Programs now in Zook could move to Central-Hower during construction.

UA also wants to remodel the McDowell Law Center on its current footprint along Wolf Ledges Parkway and University Avenue.

Again, programs could move to Central-Hower while the university installs new windows, refaces the exterior, adds more energy-efficient lighting and possibly demolishes some wings that are not needed at the law school.

There is no timetable for the law school, which has about 120,000 square feet but needs only about 100,000, Curtis said.

UA also hopes that its Innovation Generation Scholarships would be incentives to high-performing Akron school students.

Those with a 3.0 GPA and a 27 ACT score, those in the top 10 percent of their high school with a 26 ACT and those with a 3.5 GPA and 24 ACT wouldn’t have to worry about paying for their college educations.

UA spokeswoman Eileen Korey said about 20 Akron graduates who now are freshmen got the scholarships this fall in anticipation of the agreement between the university and school district. She said 21 Akron schools seniors who have applied to UA for next fall are eligible for the awards.

UA would provide the full-tuition scholarships until the $13.5 million “payment” to Akron schools runs out. At the current tuition price of $10,000 a student, that would take awhile.

But the best part of the Central-Hower deal might be the 190-some spaces in its flat surface lot, which would offer quick and easy access to many nearby academic buildings.

The school district closed Central-Hower in 2006 because of declining enrollment and used it until recently as swing space for its own construction projects.

Carol Biliczky can be reached at 330-996-3729 or cbiliczky@thebeaconjournal.com.