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Neighbors fight to save Clinton Elementary annex building from demolition

Clintonville residents rallied outside Clinton Elementary School on Monday, calling on the school board to preserve the historic Clinton Annex building.
Clintonville residents rallied outside Clinton Elementary School on Monday, calling on the school board to preserve the historic Clinton Annex building. Steve Palm-Houser

On Monday about 80 Clintonville residents held a rally outside Clinton Elementary School to preserve the school's annex building. Columbus Public Schools plans to demolish the Clinton Annex to create green space for neighborhood children.

The protesters want the school district to preserve the Annex and reopen its seven classrooms, giving Clinton Elementary enough space to open enrollment through the lottery system to children who are currently attending low-performing Columbus schools.

The demolition was scheduled to begin April 29, but Columbus Public Schools Superintendent Daniel Good has postponed it until the end of the school year, citing concerns about safety and disrupting student and staff activities, The Booster reported.

Clinton Elementary has great teachers and a great principal, but "it has pretty much zero diversity," said Seth Golding of the University Area Commission. "Clintonville always talks about how much it loves diversity. Here's our chance. Let's make it a lottery school and bring in some diversity."

The school district plans to proceed with the demolition despite a letter from the Clintonville Area Commission recommending that the building be preserved.

Seth Golding
Seth Golding Steve Palm-Houser

Seth Golding

"A lot of our kids in the university area go to this school," said University Area Commissioner Seth Golding. "They've closed two of our schools, and we don't want this one closed down. Clintonville schools have the highest test scores in Columbus Public Schools. We would like to see the district renovate the building."

The University Area Commission sent a letter to the school board to stop the demolition, Golding said. "Then we went to the Clintonville Area Commission. All but one commissioner voted to save the building."

Mary Rodgers
Mary Rodgers Steve Palm-Houser

Mary Rodgers

Clintonville Historical Society president Mary Rodgers spearheaded the Memory Gardens project to honor Clintonville's war heroes, and the mural on North Broadway that illustrates the neighborhood's history.

The Clinton Annex "dates back to 1904," Rodgers said. "It was originally built as a township high school, one of the area's first high schools." The main school building, which was recently renovated, was built in the 1920s.

"This school has been here for over a hundred years," she said. "It has been used for educational purposes for its lifetime. When it wasn't being used as a school specifically, it was a child care center, or use to provide art services to children in this area. There's a lot of opportunity for what it might do in the future."

Gavin DeVore Leonard
Gavin DeVore Leonard Steve Palm-Houser

Gavin DeVore Leonard

Gavin DeVore Leonard has created an online petition to save the Clinton Annex, which currently has over 500 signatures. He moved to Clintonville two years ago. His sister was a student at Clinton Elementary and he plans to send his young daughter there in a few years.

Leonard lived in Cincinnati for 11 years, "where the history of neighborhoods and architecture is a major part of the fabric of the city and what makes it an interesting place," he said. "Here in Columbus, we have to do what's necessary to preserve the assets we have. If we want to live in a place that has character, we need to step up."

Leonard has spoken with many Clintonville neighbors, and most of them support preserving the annex building, he said. "This building is in really good shape. It doesn't take a lot of work to maintain it. Most of us want playgrounds and green space. But we need to balance that out with the various benefits of spaces we have in our urban areas.

"Many of us are parents who want their kids to go to school in a diverse setting," Leonard said. "A lot of kids from outside of Clintonville may want to come and be a part of our community. We're concerned that we won't be able to let them in, even though we have this opportunity for more space." 

Nancy Kuhel
Nancy Kuhel Steve Palm-Houser

Nancy Kuhel

"The building is sound. I was in there just last summer," said Clintonville Area Commissioner Nancy Kuhel. "It's a great building. It's solid and safe.

"We've invited school board members, the superintendent, and the Mayor's office to actually walk through the building," Kuhel said. "They haven't accepted yet. I think that we need to engage the community before demolishing yet another historically significant building."

Kristopher Keller
Kristopher Keller Steve Palm-Houser

Kristopher Keller

Clintonville Area Commissioner Kristopher Keller described his visit to the house in Germany where his great-grandfather was born. The house was built in the 14th century, and people are still living in it today.

"We stayed in a hotel that was 700 years old," Keller said. "Those buildings have been refurbished through the years. And we can't save a building that's 110 years old, and was used two years ago for classrooms?

"We haven't had a face-to-face conversation with the school board about this yet. It would be a shame to tear down this beautiful structure because of a lack of conversation. That's all we're asking for."

Dan Fess
Dan Fess Steve Palm-Houser

Dan Fess

Dan Fess is teacher at Whetstone High School. His father was the principal at Clinton Elementary in the 1970s.

"One year after its renovation, Clinton Elementary is full," Fess said. "My concern is that we can take no lottery students from low-performing schools."

Clinton Elementary has a few lottery students now, but can't accept any more, he said. "Meanwhile, they're talking about demolishing this annex, which can accommodate up to 200 kids."

Fess had just come from the Columbus Public Schools lottery office, where he learned that 230 students want to enroll in Clinton Elementary through the lottery system. "They can't come to this school because some people in the neighborhood want more playground space for their own kids.

"I live in this neighborhood," Fess said. "I'm a privileged guy. But there are many who are not. We have big enough shoulders to do it."