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Whitehall board opts to stay with 5 schools for bond issue
The Whitehall school board, working on plans to replace all of its buildings through a bond issue and state assistance, has decided to stick with five facilities on their current locations.
The board, which met May 29, has yet to decide on the millage voters will be asked to approve in November.
The board voted May 22 to accept funding from the Ohio School Facilities Commission to build new schools.
The decision came after listening to many months of input from residents and parents. The most recent survey indicated the community is most comfortable with replacing all five schools, including three elementary schools, a middle school and high school, on their current sites.
The second most popular option was to only build two elementary schools, but balancing the student population weighed in as a concern. Parents vehemently opposed a campus-style setting for grades 7-12.
During the public forum on May 14, representatives from the facilities commission explained that the estimated costs had increased slightly over the past year.
Whitehall had chosen to wait a year after the original offer in order to better inform the public and receive their input. The original split of 62 percent would be funded by the state, and 38 percent from local property taxes if a bond receives passage.
These percentages have only shifted by one percent to a 61/39 split. If voters approve the bond issue in November, it will be the first tax issue approved since 1995.
New buildings will provide better learning environments for the next 50 or 60 years, according to board President Walter Armes and Superintendent Judyth Dobbert-Meloy.
Current buildings are deteriorating more each year, costing about $700,000 per year for maintenance. Electrical systems are inadequate for technology, or to upgrade heating and cooling needs. They also are not handicap-accessible.
All schools will receive new gymnasiums and cafeterias. The hope is to keep the auditorium and auxiliary gyms at the high school. But the commission will not pay for those upgrades. That would be the district's responsibility. The majority of the community stipulated they wanted to see those two facilities remain.
One of the board's next tasks will be deciding between a 6.65 or 7-mill request. The owner of a $50,000 home would pay $102 a year at 6.65 mills and $107 annually at 7 mills.
If the board waits another year to go on the ballot, they risk going to the back of the line for state funds, and even higher construction costs.
Armes said, "It won't be any less expensive in the future if we wait."
Tony Schorr, president of Schorr Architects, encouraged the board to continue with community engagement. He also suggested hiring a design team as soon as possible to assist with the bond issue process, so they can hit the ground running. Schorr suggested starting some site work through summer while kids are on break.
At the next board meeting a resolution will be introduced to begin the process of getting on the ballot. The district has a mid-August deadline to file with the board of elections..
In other business, retirement resignations were accepted from Theodosia Ragias (WYHS), Thomas Will (Rosemore) and John Fetch (Etna Road Elementary custodial). Approved to be employed on one year limited contracts were John Hill (WYHS), Brittany Riesen (Rosemore) and Holly Weiss (Kae Avenue Elementary).
The next meeting will be June 12 at 6 p.m. at the administration building.
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