Cleveland to buy shuttered high school, convert it into training facility for police, fire, EMS

The facility will be used for training exercises and to house a public safety program designed to get area kids interested in becoming first responders

Courtney Astolfi

CLEVELAND — Cleveland City Council on Monday agreed to buy South High School from Cleveland Metropolitan School District as part of plans to turn the largely defunct building into a joint training academy for Cleveland police, fire and EMS.

The city intends to use most of the building for training exercises. It also will lease up to six classrooms back to the school district for a public safety program aimed at getting more Cleveland kids interested in becoming cops, firefighters and EMTs.

Public Safety Director Karrie Howard said that EMS providers, firefighters and police officers routinely work together but don’t currently train together.
Public Safety Director Karrie Howard said that EMS providers, firefighters and police officers routinely work together but don’t currently train together. (Photo/Cleveland EMS via Twitter)

Since its closure in 2010, CMSD has used the Broadway Avenue building to store records and house a trade shop, which will be relocated to another building once the sale is final.

Public Safety Director Karrie Howard, during recent committee hearings, touted the benefits of a joint training facility: EMS, firefighters and police routinely work together at crime scenes and emergencies, he said, but they don’t currently train together.

The project would also convert a dormant Slavic Village building from what Councilman Anthony Brancatelli described as an “eyesore” into what Councilman Blaine Griffin described as “jewel” for the neighborhood.

Though the agreement requires the city to pay $435,000 for the building, the deal falls under a provision of Ohio law that allows the entire cost to be forgiven if the city makes at least $435,000 in renovations and improvements by mid-2023.

A final price tag on renovations has yet to be determined, though it is likely it will far exceed the purchase price. City Real Estate Commissioner James DeRosa recently told Council that he expects it will cost no more than $5 million to get the building up and running as a training facility, but additional costs, including a new roof, will be needed down the road. The city already has set aside $5 million from a bond issue for the project, DeRosa said.

The training academy for Cleveland police, fire and EMS will replace or supplement the current spaces used to train new and existing public safety personnel. Police, for example, train inside the county-owned Justice Center, so the move to South High will allow the city to downsize its lease and save money on payments to the county, according to Howard.

City officials have described South High as a fitting option for a training facility. Among other things, it includes a large gymnasium and underground parking structure suited to the task, and plenty of room for multiple classes to be conducted at the same time, Howard said.

The building could also house a regional Ohio Peace Officer Training Academy program, which could serve other departments around the region, Howard said.

The 20-year lease agreement with CMSD, part of the deal approved Monday, will allow the district to use up to six classrooms and other ancillary spaces for a public safety youth vocational program aimed at upper-classmen. The city and CMSD intend to collaborate on curriculum.

The areas that will be occupied by students can be cordoned off from other areas of the building, so kids are not mingling with public safety personnel, DeRosa said.

Howard said the facility will hopefully serve as a tool to recruit more police officers, firefighters and EMTs and encourage Cleveland students interested in public safety to find jobs in the city of Cleveland, rather than going to suburban departments, or other nearby cities.


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