Master plan will tackle traffic congestion

by Melissa Martin

Feb. 21 school board meeting

Brecksville-Broadview Heights Schools Superintendent Jeff Harrison said the district is moving forward to create a campus master plan and expects to hire Architectural Vision Group at the March school board meeting.

Headquartered in Cleveland, AVG has worked on several school-related projects in recent years for nearby communities, including Elyria, Avon and Massillon.

“We as a district are working with the cities of Brecksville and Broadview Heights to alleviate congestion along Mill Road,” Harrison said, noting that both cities recently completed traffic studies to determine what needs to be done to alleviate congestion in the campus area before and after school.

Among the recommended solutions include the construction of additional turn lanes and/or a roundabout and possibly a campus entrance off Mill Rd.

“Until we know exactly what we’re doing with the campus, they don’t want to spend the money,” Harrison said, adding that the district will also conduct its own traffic study.

Before the contract with AVG can be approved, Harrison said the company has to secure surveying services, a process that is nearing completion. Though the district has done partial campus surveys, including during the construction of the high school and most recently as part of the renovation of the tennis courts, there has yet to be a survey of the entire campus.

“The good news is that once we have [the survey] completed, we can use it for any project we do on this campus moving forward,” he said.

Harrison said a number of smaller projects will be undertaken as part of the campus master plan.

“This isn’t about one project,” he said. “This is about what we are going to do with the whole campus, and we’re obviously not going to make all those improvements in one fell swoop. It’s going to be done in pieces, including some improvements to athletic facilities that will be privately funded.”

Harrison said the campus traffic study will give the district recommendations the district can use as early as the next school year.

“It’ll be interesting to have some of the experts in the field lend their expertise and make sure that our traffic is best suited for our setup and the way we route traffic currently, and more importantly, the way we’re going into the future,” Harrison said.

He added that the plan includes a discussion of the viability of school buildings, but that topic will not be addressed for several years. “The priority right now is traffic around campus and the Hilton property in general.”

Harrison said construction of a new or renovated middle school might be discussed, but he promised the district will not come to voters with a bond issue any time soon.

“That is way down the road,” he said. “What we’re trying to do is be proactive rather than reactive. This way, when we finally start talking about that project 15 years or so down the road, we don’t say to ourselves ‘Why did we do that and waste the time and money?’”

School board President Mark Dosen echoed Harrison’s sentiments, stressing that the middle school still has several years of useful life remaining.

“This is more about what we can do incrementally,” Dosen added.

Treasurer Craig Yaniglos reiterated that the traffic study will address traffic patterns over the next 20 years.

“To [Dosen’s] point, this is long-term planning for sure,” Yaniglos said.

Harrison said that once the contract with AVG is signed, the district plans to bring together a steering group comprised of city and school officials and other organizations to provide input.

Harrison said the campus master plan is expected to be completed by October, and the findings will be shared, along with the district’s strategic plan, at the annual State of the Schools address this fall. He said improvements to district athletic facilities are expected to be a big part of the master plan.

“This way, when we go out for those sponsorships [for the athletic facilities], this shows we have a vision, and that funding will then follow the vision and not the other way around,” he said.

Enrollment update

Harrison told the board the administration continues to keep a close eye on enrollment projections after the 2022-2023 kindergarten class was larger than anticipated.

He said that kindergarten class remains an anomaly, as 250 kindergarten students were registered in 2023, of which 227 were registered by Feb. 15, 2023. With kindergarten registration open for next school year, he said enrollment continues to be in line with projections, as 210 students were registered by Feb. 15.

“[Looking back] 250-265 students has been our sweet spot,” Harrison said. “Our current first-grade class sits at 290 because they were coming into school when we had a brand-new, shiny building, but also because it opened following the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I found it interesting that there were 62 students who enrolled that year who could have enrolled the year prior, but their parents held them back because of COVID and maybe because they didn’t get preschool in [because of the pandemic]. That contributed to the bubble we currently have in first grade.”

District enrollment is 3,720 after adding 17 students since the start of the school year. The kindergarten class sits at 254, Harrison said.

“We will continue to keep close eye on it and will make adjustments in the building as needed and with staffing,” he added.

Dosen said many in the community were skeptical that the new elementary school building, which opened in the 2022-2023 school year, could accommodate future district growth. However, he said, projections used to size the school remain on the mark.

“It’s good to see [enrollment] is starting to settle back down to where projections put it and see it was just an anomaly with the one K class,” Dosen said, adding that the numbers can change at any time.  ∞