Planning for the future of Eakin Elementary School


By Dedra Cordle
Staff Writer

The Columbus City Schools board of education removed a ballot initiative last year that would have asked voters to approve a bond issue and a permanent improvement levy in order to find a new elementary, middle, and high school build project in collaboration with the state. Among the new schools that were slated to be built in one of the first phases of the project was Eakin Elementary.

The initial facilities master plan called for the demolition of the former middle school building located adjacent from the elementary school site; the construction of the new elementary school on those parcels; and the former Eakin Elementary building to be used as a location for swing-space as the district continued with its new build project.

According to district officials, there were no long-term plans put in place for the site beyond the temporary housing of students.

The lack of long-term planning for the 6.5 acre property concerned area residents and members of the local area commission who worried that it could become “another vacant eyesore” within the community.

Believing that there could be better uses for the property, the Greater Hilltop Area Commission asked city and school officials to meet with its human services and education committee to discuss how the space could be better utilized to serve the entire community.

The first in what could be a continued series of conversations over the potential uses of the Eakin Elementary site took place on March 15.

During the meeting, commissioner James White shared with city and school officials some of the ideas the advisory board and the local residents have envisioned for the property should voters approve a new school build project in the immediate future.

According to White, they would like to see the building reconfigured in such a way that multiple services could be operated out of the one location. For instance, he mentioned they would like to see recreation space be made available for children and adults while another area of the building could be used to house educational or safety services such as another library branch or a police substation.

“There is a real opportunity here to serve our most vulnerable community and we can do that by getting some of these services right here in our own backyard,” he said.

In attendance were representatives with the city’s department of public safety and the Columbus Metropolitan Library. Dan Giangardella, the deputy director of the department of public safety, said it might be difficult to build and operate a police substation within that location as it costs millions of dollars to do so, but added they “never say no to solutions and new ideas.”

Donna Zuiderweg, the chief community engagement officer for CML, said there are no immediate plans in the short-term or even the long-term to build a new library in the Hilltop. She added that they would be interested in providing more community programming in order to better serve the 17,000 children and adults who live near the school site.

“The idea of another library location is probably a little further out of reach, but I think there still could be a lot of opportunities here,” said Zuiderweg.

Ultimately, the final decision on what could be located within the Eakin Elementary School building or housed on the property lies with the local school district who owns the building and the land. White said while the commission and the committee did not want to “overstep” with the school district in regard to their own ideas for the potential uses for the property, they also felt that they needed to add their voice in future discussions for the site at 4774 Eakin Road.

“It’s just one of those things where we’re trying to get in front of it now and not have it done to us or take that risk of ‘We didn’t say anything quick enough,’” he said. “We just really do not want to be left behind (in the discussion on potential future uses of the property).”

School officials said they understood the rationale and thanked the commission for reaching out to request the meeting in the first place.

“Thank you for being proactive as a community and really thinking through what it is your neighborhood needs,” said Jennifer Adair, president of the CCS board of education. “I think the board and the district share the same spirit in the way we are evaluating all of our properties and we really believe that we have the opportunity to work with our sister governments to try to provide space, facilities, and places of community where these kinds of shared service models can occur on our property.”

She said that while it could be possible for the district to open up the space to the recreation and parks department or other city and county entities, there can be no cementation of plans until a bond issue and permanent operating levy is placed on the ballot and approved by voters.

“In order for any of these plans to happen, Columbus City Schools needs to be able to do something with this property,” said Adair. “And we cannot move on anything until we decide to put something on the ballot. That is our goal. We want to do that.”

She reiterated that in the aftermath of a ballot initiative being approved by the voters, the site would be used as swing-space for other schools nearby. She said although they may be limited in what they can offer afterward due to state law, they will continue to keep open the line of communication with the commission, the city and the county, potential business partners, and the greater Hilltop community.

“We know that these spaces are great for academics and community and it just makes sense (for it to be utilized to benefit the entire community when it no longer operates as a school),” she said. “We want to be able to bring other aspects to the area because we want to be a great partner.”

She said that in her opinion, the location would be perfect for an educational or recreational facility that also houses a community health clinic.

She added that the district is not interested in selling the property.

“We are not going to divest ourselves of a lot of our property,” she said. “But we want to be better community asset holders and create spaces that support the whole child because we know that when they are supported in the community they do better in the classroom.”


  1. Unless Wedgewood Apartments are cleared of crime, adding more chaos to the area will only exasperate the problems in the area. Since this has been an ongoing issue for years and only getting worse, why not tear down the old Eakin school and put in a playground for the many kids in that area. Somewhere where they can play without fear, if there is such a possibility.


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