Heights High to undergo $95 million makeover

Heights High School, which serves more than 1,600 students from Cleveland Heights, University Heights and a sliver of South Euclid, is on the verge of a massive $95 million renovation. A 2009 review by the Ohio Schools Facility Commission precipitated the move.
 
"They came in and did a complete inventory of our facilities and it came back that, yes, they're very old and outdated," says Angee Shaker, director of communications and community engagement for the Cleveland Heights-University Heights City School District. "It's long overdue that we tackle this and update our facilities."
 
Voters passed a $134 million bond issue in November 2013, which is funding the work at the high school and future renovations on two of the district's three middle schools. Wiley Middle School will be taken offline, but will serve high school students until the renovations at the intersection of Cedar and Lee are complete. The Wiley campus will then be used for middle school students as their facilities are renovated.
 
"It's gong to be very nice," says Shaker of the interim facilities at Wiley. "It's not going to be: let's throw you in here for a couple of years. The modular classrooms are actually way nicer than the classrooms at the high school."
 
Most of the existing high school will be demolished. The original historic 1926 portion will remain intact, but will be renovated. The first floor of the new 362,500-square-foot structure will house public spaces including the library, cafeteria, and auditorium along with administrative offices and the instrumental music department. Large, modern classrooms will occupy the second and third floors, while the lower level will house large two gymnasiums and a new pool, to which the community at large will have access.
 
The school district decided on the new school's amenities and design based on input from more than 20 groups populated with community members, staff and students. Groups focused on aspects such as sustainability, history, arts and education.
 
"We engaged as many as possible to get input," says Shaker. "We can't have it all," she adds of their myriad proposals, "but we wanted to get the best ideas."
 
While the new athletic field and surrounding quarter-mile mile running track, to which the public has access, are complete, construction will start in earnest in June after students leave for summer break. Ozanne-Hammond-Gilbane-Regency is the general contractor for the project and the lead architect is Gary Balog of bshm architects. The new building is slated to open to students in fall of 2017.
 
Until then, there is ongoing community oversight on the project by way of the Facilities Accountability Committee, which meets monthly for project updates. Obviously, the Cleveland University Heights Board of Education keeps abreast of the project as well. Just last week, the architectural team presented renderings to the BOE depicting what the corner of Cedar and Lee will look like in a little more than two years.
 
"It just took everyone's breath away," says Shaker. "It's going to be so beautiful."
 
There will be a Heights High Farewell and Groundbreaking Ceremony on May 12 at 6 p.m. at the high school, 13263 Cedar Road. This free public event will feature music, refreshments, and presentations. More details are available here.

Read more articles by Erin O'Brien.

Erin O'Brien's eclectic features and essays have appeared in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Cleveland Plain Dealer and others. The sixth generation northeast Ohioan is also author of The Irish Hungarian Guide to the Domestic Arts. Visit erinobrien.us for complete profile information.
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