The castle-like red-brick building dominates the corner of Observatory and Edwards, just a block off iconic Hyde Park Square. Its modern playground with its green and bright yellow climbing equipment beckons.

As it should. It's a classic neighborhood school in the heart of Hyde Park, one of Cincinnati's thriving communities with all the trappings of success: beautiful houses, a mix of restaurants, chic retail, impressive churches and a Graeter's ice cream parlor.

But, as Cincinnati Public Schools works through a massive 10-year Facilities Master Plan, Hyde Park Elementary isn't included. It didn't make the final cut. The formula is simple: projected number of students vs. the number of buildings.

A group of parents is asking that they reconsider. They're organizing, holding meetings, and they've created a website,, to rally support for reopening the school.

It calls for "all committed Hyde Park and Oakley residents to be ambassadors and cheerleaders" in the effort.

They want to show the community has enough school-age children to support an elementary school. They'd like to see K-8 with a foreign language component.

For parents Carl and Kate Rich, it's as simple as walking their kids to school in a neighborhood that offers everything else. They see students heading down to St. Mary School in the mornings and, as their children approach school age, it left them asking, "Why not a public school, too?"

"I have no political bones either way," Carl Rich says. It's not a political issue. It's a grassroots effort started by a dozen or so families who want to measure interest and then present numbers to the school district.

Everyone is doing what they can "” circulating fliers at preschools and moms groups; just spreading the word. The website was launched just before Christmas. In less than 30 days, 100 completed "intent to enroll" forms were gathered.

Parent involvement is cherished, district officials say, but it's not enough to open a school with fewer than 450 students, the optimum enrollment for effective operation.

"I would like nothing more than a renovated Hyde Park school, but that's not sufficient to get it," says Terry Elfers, Chief Operations Officer for Cincinnati Public Schools. He's the guy in charge of facilities, buses and things non-educational. He continues, "I'd love to renovate that building; it's a beautiful building."

Structure is sound

The building, dedicated in 1902, is fine. It's being used now as a "swing school," housing students from other schools under renovation. This year, students from Mount Washington Elementary pile off yellow buses to use its classrooms and playground while their school is restored to the tune of $14 million. The children are safe and comfortable in the building, which is structurally and operationally fine, says Elfers. Still, it would need some work to meet the board's commitment to technology and energy efficiency.

Hyde Park Elementary's time ran out as its own school in the spring of 2005. The next year, based on detailed analysis of projected enrollment in the East Side community, the school board removed Hyde Park from the Facilities Master Plan.

"I can't imagine a more detailed or intensive review," says Elfers. And, it's under constant scrutiny because things happen. Things like new businesses moving into the area, bringing families. Or a parochial or private school closing. Or a new apartment complex. Things change. The district wants to be ready but cannot afford the expense of underused or unused space.

Looking at the numbers

The award-winning but always full Kilgour Elementary is five minutes away, just over a mile and a half.

An enrollment study presented to the school board in December shows that the market share for a neighborhood school doesn't exist.

"I'd love to be in a position to renovate Hyde Park School," assures school district spokesperson Jan Welsh, if enrollment justifies it. The district has to be mindful of costs and impact. The eastern section of the district has a very high number of children attending private schools.

The master plan

The $1 billion Facilities Master Plan, developed by Cincinnati Public and the state, was approved in 2002. With sweeping rebuilds across the city, it is replacing 35 inadequate, deteriorating buildings with green buildings full of natural light, computer labs and full-sized gyms. Forbidding mazes of hallways and concrete staircases are being replaced by inviting space and welcome centers. Another 31 buildings are being renovated.

Never say never

The future of Hyde Park Elementary is not a new conversation, says Cincinnati Public's Welsh, but there are new voices.

Anything is possible in a district that has pulled itself up in state rankings to be Ohio's first and only urban district rated as effectively educating students.

Cincinnati Public is a district where parents and supporters leveraged money from arts and private donors to open the $70 million School for Creative and Performing Arts in Over-the-Rhine to national headlines last fall.

It's also a district in which private money built the state-of-the-art Science Building at Walnut Hills High School, consistently one of the nation's top 100 public high schools by U.S. News and World Report.

Clearly, it's a district in which organized parents get things done.