Look at a color-coded Ohio map with the 610 public school districts, and you will see boundaries that zigzag over county lines, city lines, village lines and township lines. It’s a puzzle with oddly shaped pieces revealing at a glance that school district boundaries rarely coincide with municipal limits or sometimes even county lines.
It’s not unheard of for residents in one municipality to send their children to two different school districts because of those meandering borders.
The reasons for these seemingly illogical boundaries in many cases go back to the early 1900s. In Russell Township, for example, school centralization was a hotly debated topic that divided the township. South Russell Village incorporated in 1923 and annexed to the Chagrin Falls schools.
Orange Township public schools in 1924 consolidated with neighboring communities to form what is today the Orange City School District serving Hunting Valley, Moreland Hills, Orange Village, Pepper Pike and Woodmere as well as small portions of Bedford Heights, Solon and Warrensville Heights.
On the surface, it’s understandable that some residents of North Pointe Drive in Pepper Pike didn’t realize that they were in the Beachwood City School District. But Orange school officials should have caught this during enrollment.
The misunderstanding resulted in seven students on that street being enrolled in Orange schools instead of Beachwood. A total of 22 residential properties on North Pointe Drive are in the Beachwood district. Now many of these residents want to stay in the Orange district. They don’t have the power to simply switch districts, and a misunderstanding or failure to look carefully at property documents is not a legitimate reason to allow this type of change.
Orange Superintendent Lynn Campbell uncovered the issue in early 2020 and took action, as was his job.
One North Pointe Drive student enrolled in Beachwood. Both boards of education agreed to allow the children to finish up the 2020-2021 academic year in Orange and then transfer to Beachwood in August.
One longtime student was permitted to finish her senior year at Orange through a superintendents’ agreement. Two families moved to Orange Village to keep their children in Orange schools.
In the meantime, some parents have gone to the state school board seeking a territory transfer from Beachwood to Orange for the 22 houses on North Pointe Drive. A hearing took place in late July.
This also boils down to a taxing issue. Each property deed on file in county auditors’ records lists the taxing districts for the land in question. Property owners vote on and pay taxes to their local municipal government, county government and school district. These designations also can be seen when a resident registers to vote or checks voting locations and districts.
These residents have the means to take this issue to the state board. But in general, residents need to be more aware of their property designations and taxing districts. It’s all public record.
Could this case set a precedence? We suspect, for example, that there are residents in Hunting Valley who would like to leave Orange schools for a district with lower taxes. Is one reason as good as another?
A misunderstanding is not a good enough reason to allow residents on one street to switch school districts.