A collaborative partnership between the city and school district is the key to a thriving community.
“People move to cities with solid school systems, and one of the things we’ve worked hard to do during the last five years is build that relationship with the city,” says Superintendent Roxann Ramsey-Caserio, relating that ongoing conversations and community engagement have been integral to future planning.
Mayor Kevin Corcoran points out, “It’s of paramount importance for the schools and city to work together because nothing holds your property value better than a great school district. It’s important to all of our residents, and whenever possible, we work together to make the community stronger and better.”
From infrastructure to programming, aligning resources benefits everyone. There are ongoing examples of how a unified vision and supportive alliance have helped shape North Ridgeville.
“We’ve had multiple opportunities to look at projects across the city that benefit the residents and our schools, and Mayor Corcoran has made it extremely easy to have those conversations,” Caserio says.
Case in point: the Heart & Soul Fitness trail installation and construction of Ranger Way, which now links Bainbridge and Center Ridge roads.
“Those are great examples of the city and schools working together and coming to an agreement on what is best for the entire community,” Caserio says.
Now, dialogue is focused on a series of new school buildings and city amenities, such as a fieldhouse with indoor track, aquatic facility with exercise space and a senior center. A bond issue on the upcoming November ballot will propose a new high school with performing arts center, new kindergarten through third grade elementary school, dedicated space for Ranger High-Tech Academy and transportation maintenance facilities.
“When you talk about joint-use, multigenerational joint facilities, it doesn’t get any better than North Ridgeville right now,” Caserio says.
A Growing Community
When North Ridgeville High School was constructed in 1967, the city’s population was about 10,000 residents.
Today, it’s 36,000.
“For us to work with a school building that was built more than 50 years ago with the current population, it creates a lot of stress because there is not enough space for the students,” Corcoran says.
Caserio adds that the high school was designed for 900 students and now houses 1,400. Additionally, high school students enrolled in Ranger High-Tech Academy have expressed a level of disconnect with extracurriculars and activities because of its location at the local Lorain County Community College (LCCC) branch.
“It was difficult for them to transition back and forth,” Caserio says. “Moving forward, it’s important for us to think about the STEM designation we currently hold — how to maintain that and also provide space that a project-based learning environment requires.”
A proposed new collaborative space designated for Ranger High-Tech enrollees in grades nine to 12, along with other students, would open up STEM opportunities to a larger audience.
The city, school district and residents have already experienced what a modern facility can do for learning, evidenced by the adaptable, studio spaces and collaborative areas at the North Ridgeville Academic Center for grades three to eight that opened during the 2017-18 school year.
In December, the city’s facilities planning committee met to move forward and make some changes.
“We included a broader scope of North Ridgeville community members,” Caserio says of engaging business owners, parents of preschoolers, homeowners’ association representatives and senior citizens. As a whole, 20% of the population has children attending the schools, and 20% are older adults who are at least 55 years old.
“We talked about how we can appeal to everyone even if they do not have children in school,” Caserio says, pointing to another example of city collaboration with the proposed
senior center and recreation facilities that can be shared by all. With proposed designated community
resources — the recreation facilities and senior center — the city and schools can further collaborate.
“Right now, the senior center works with schools on intergenerational activities, whether it’s reading to children or an intergenerational Olympics activities, and one of the great things about our seniors is they have so many experiences to share,” Corcoran says. “If we can bring the younger and older generations together, it makes the community stronger.”
The bond issue “came out of a need,” Caserio emphasizes, explaining that it’s different than a levy that is used for operating expenses. “This is actual construction, and we have been talking about our schools and the space constraints for some time now. Our brand-new building is in excellent shape to handle the growth we are seeing in the community, but the other buildings are not.”
The overall estimated cost of construction is approximately $227 million, and the school district’s portion is roughly $190 million. Combining forces with the city will save the district about $18 million. The city income tax increase for the recreation and senior
centers is 0.2%.
“Currently, the city has a 1% income tax, which is the lowest that exists in the entire state,” Corcoran says. “We are just asking that to be 1.2%, which is still one of the lowest rates.”
North Ridgeville is the fastest growing city in Northeast Ohio. Because of the partnership between the city and school district, it has wisely leveraged shared resources throughout the years. For example, the city service department helps maintain and manage repairs to pipes and other school building infrastructure. The fire and police departments not only perform annual building checks, “they give us tips and thoughts on what we need to address with regard to school safety,” Caserio says. “They work hand in hand to be sure our staff and students are prepared for any emergency, and the school resources in our building are a shared agreement between the two entities.”
This collaboration and others are what triggered a larger discussion about how to deliver necessary new school buildings and long-desired recreation facilities while saving cost for residents.
“It’s an extremely exciting time,” Caserio says. “There are only a handful of growing districts like this in the state, and we are working together to find the best approach.”