In February 2010 Tremont Elementary School narrowly avoided closure when Cleveland Metropolitan School District CEO Eugene Sanders vetoed a cost-cutting plan that targeted under-capacity schools. The problem’s genesis was city-wide: residents (frequently families with school-age children) moving to the suburbs.
This situation was a far cry from the Tremont of 100 years ago (then known as The South Side). Back then, it was a bustling, crowded place filled with working-class families, most of whom were recent European immigrants. By the early 20th century, the original schoolhouse, built in the 1870s, was unable to meet the growing neighborhood's needs. Thus in 1917 the city constructed a new Tremont School, believed at the time to be the largest elementary school building in the state of Ohio.
The school is made of brick, with oak floors, oak rails and a gymnasium. At the center is a well where one can look down from the third floor to the first. In the 1920s an addition was built. For decades, a general academic curriculum was supplemented by training in woodcraft for boys and needlecrafts for girls. Tremont School may have been the first institution in the United States to use students as safety patrol crossing guards.
In 2005, Tremont Elementary was converted to a Montessori school. This attracted more students, including many from outside the Tremont neighborhood. However, the uptick was not enough to ameliorate the threatened shutdown in 2010. Large numbers of Tremont residents, including many without school-age children, successfully protested the closing. To ensure continuing support, Friends of Tremont School was founded the same year. In recent years, the school has earned “Effective” or “Excellent” ratings on the Ohio Report Card and was named a national finalist for Best Urban Schools.
The building’s fate came to the fore again in 2014 when the Cleveland Metropolitan School District launched a multi-year construction/renovation program. At the time, Tremont School had 584 students (an increase of 12 percent in five years). As of this writing, a decision to rebuild versus renovate has not been made. A case can be made for both sides: A new school would be less costly to maintain and might offer amenities that would be difficult to retrofit into the old facility (cafeteria, additional restrooms, climate control, etc.). However, renovating the existing structure (the preferred option among Tremont residents) is more in keeping with the character of the neighborhood—a place where (despite the erection of many new structures) local history is widely revered.