The message from the Akron Public School Board is "we hear you” and “we understand."
There have been concerns over what happens to two communities with the merger of Kenmore and Garfield high schools.
Both communities are filled with a deep history and endless memories.
The school district recently moved forward with the decision to merge the two schools after experiencing declining enrollment and increasing costs.
The plan: Construct a new high school to house students from both Kenmore and Garfield high schools.
The location of the new school hasn’t been announced, but the potentially more cost effective approach would be to build the high school on an existing property.
Garfield’s current location is being considered.
In the meantime, Garfield students will be moving into Kenmore High School while the new school is being constructed.
While there’s many concerns regarding the merger, the most recent concerns are focused on the name of temporary school.
Some residents have voiced their frustration over the possibility of calling the new school Garfield – which would in turn eliminate Kenmore’s identity.
The school board says no decision was made as to what the new school would be named, although the district would have to use one name moving forward with the Ohio Department of Education (ODE).
At this point, Kenmore and Garfield both have separate individual record numbers (IRN) registered with the ODE.
Moving into one building would require them to eliminate one IRN.
In this case it would be eliminating the IRN associated with Kenmore High School.
Board members claim this may have been where some of the confusion began.
To ease concerns, at least temporarily, the board decided to pass a motion to approve the name Kenmore-Garfield until more structured plans are in place and public input is heard.
But with that -- a merger still means the fear of losing a community's identity.
Saying goodbye is never easy.
In fact, for some, it turns into a challenge to preserve history and memories shared.
"We don’t feel like this is a merger,” said Calee Osburn, a 2000 graduate of Kenmore High School. “We feel like it’s a wipeout.”
It's a reality that has hit the Akron school district before and other districts across the country. But the reality is still hard to accept, especially when there’s an unknown left on how the community will move ahead without its high school.
“It upsets me because this is where I come from. These are some of the most amazing people I’ve ever known.”
While Osburn no longer lives in the area, she says the decision will impact Kenmore’s history and generations of families still living in Kenmore.
It’s a move that doesn't just impact alumni or current residents, it can impact businesses too. Seth and Nate Vaill, brothers and owners of the Rialto Theater on Kenmore Blvd., are worried about what it means for them.
They recently hosted an event where community members shared stories that showcased what Kenmore means to them. The chatter off the stage was a little different – filled with emotional discussions on the merger.
“There are people who really care about this community,” said Seth Vaill. “And it showed up when we put this together in three to four weeks and there was 100 people here. This place was packed.”
But critics say families who grew up in Kenmore have decided to leave the area, which in turn has left vacant seats inside classrooms. So what’s next for the community to move forward? Nate Vaill says it's time to focus on what makes Kenmore unique.
“Really one of our goals is to put culture back into this neighborhood. And that’s only going to benefit us and the art gets better.”