Extra troops have helped quiet the “war zone” that parents say surrounds the Cleveland School of the Arts’ temporary quarters.

Two 10th-grade boys suffered head injuries on Oct. 26 when a group of males attacked them two blocks from the former Harry E. Davis Junior High on Churchill Avenue. Cleveland police have arrested a 17-year-old boy and identified other suspects, said officer Nancy Dominik, a police spokeswoman.

Since then, by all accounts, added attention from school and city police, a “peace squad” from former pro football great Jim Brown’s Amer-I-Can group and parent volunteers have deterred further attacks.

The heightened security has left parents more at ease. In fact, enrollment has risen slightly in recent weeks and now stands at 612.

“Right now, everything is going smoothly,” said Michelle Rox, whose son, Cushon Crump is a 10th-grader at the school. “A majority of parents are OK with the location as long as the kids are safe.”

Cushon, a visual-arts major, never gave a thought to transferring.

“I love CSA, CSA is still great,” he said. “I don’t want to go to another school.”

The school, for the sixth through 12th grades, is to remain in the neighborhood around East 105th Street and Superior Avenue for three years while a new facility is built on its property in University Circle.

Parents have wondered why officials would plunk one of their few showcases — it scored a top rating of excellent on its most recent state report card — in such a perilous environment. The district chose the closed junior high because it is big and only about 2 miles from University Circle.

Two school board members have suggested busing students until their new school, part of a systemwide building program, is finished. Parents of students displaced from two neighborhood schools on the West Side made similar requests in August.

But administrators are sticking with state minimum standards for busing. Children who attend their neighborhood elementary schools get service if they live more than 2 miles away; for high school students, the distance has to be more than 3 miles. Students who attend citywide draws like the Cleveland School of the Arts are on their own.

The two boys were attacked near East 105th Street and Superior Avenue, where arts students from across the city get on and off Greater Cleveland Regional Transportation buses.

Parents say RTA bus drivers used to add to the danger by driving past waiting students without stopping. RTA could not corroborate the claim, said Flounsay Caver, the transit agency’s head of service quality. But Principal Barbara Walton and Rox said drivers now stop faithfully.

Parents hope the extra police will stick around for the entire three years. But district security chief Lester Fultz is promising to assign additional personnel only “until we are confident that we have removed the negative element.”

Fultz believes an adult presence will be enough to discourage most of the trouble. He is hoping that parents and community volunteers will continue to fill that role.

“I just need them to be visible, to be willing to make a phone call if they see something,” Fultz said.

Members of the peace squad, dressed in black fatigues, have added the area around East 105th and Superior to a list of city hot spots they intermittently patrol. Anti-violence activist James Box was part of a contingent that kept watch on a recent Friday morning. He was joined by two other men and a woman.

Box said the arts students, including his eighth-grade daughter, are naive and make easy prey for thugs who covet the kids’ iPods and other possessions. The squad sees to it that students walk along East 105th and Churchill, avoiding secluded shortcuts.

“They don’t know where they are,” Box said. “Our goal is to make these young people aware.”

The volunteer peace squad has asked neighborhood “shot callers” to allow the students safe passage, and the request seems to have been honored, Box said. But he said the squad will patrol near the school when necessary over the next three years.

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Article courtesy of: Cleveland.com

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