Canal Winchester High School may soon have new bleachers in its gymnasium.
Canal Winchester Local Schools Superintendent Kimberley Miller-Smith told school board members in August that the bleachers, which are more than 30 years old, need to be replaced.
"They’re not ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliant," Miller-Smith said. "We’ve been grandfathered in with that, but it still doesn’t make a difference when people are trying to go up and down the bleachers."
Miller-Smith said a woman fell on the bleachers during a basketball game last year. She noted many people have expressed feeling unsafe on them.
"Seniors can’t go up them because there are no handrails," she said. "The bleachers are about to the point where they can’t be repaired. There is a concern the bleachers will fail at some point."
According to Miller-Smith, the district spends an average of $6,000 each year to repair the bleachers.
"It’s like we’re throwing good money after bad," said board member Mike Yonnotti.
Miller-Smith wants to get the ball rolling on the bleacher replacement before she retires at the end of the year.
"I didn’t want the new superintendent to have to break it to you that they need replaced," she said.
Finding the funds
Miller-Smith said she expects the bleacher replacement to cost the district around $160,000.
District Treasurer Joyce Boyer explained how she and Miller-Smith plan to fund the bleacher replacement.
Boyer said that, as a school district, there isn’t a permanent source of income for the permanent improvement fund. The district does, however, have a permanent improvement fund where it can set aside extra funds for improvements needed down the road.
Right now, the permanent improvement fund has about $257,000, according to Boyer.
"The superintendent has been very hesitant to spend these funds because when they’re gone, they’re not replenished," said Boyer.
The district is, however, in an unusual position where it can expect that fund to grow considerably in the next few years.
When the district built the cafeteria, office and educational wing to the high school in the early 1990s, it passed a .5-mill classroom facility maintenance plan that was required by the state at the time. The plan was set to collect for 23 years and is close to expiring.
Boyer said that, while the fund is still collecting, the money collected can only be used to make repairs to the portion of the building added when the plan was passed. When it expires, any remaining funds can be moved to the permanent improvement fund and used anywhere it is needed in the district.
According to Boyer, that account has a balance of over $830,000, and will stop collecting within the next two years.
"The superintendent and board could be more willing to spend the permanent improvement fund knowing the funds will be replaced within two years," Boyer said.
"While I’ve been very frugal with that money, I want to emphasize that it’s very important that you have a large sum of money in your permanent improvement fund," said Miller-Smith, adding that unexpected expenses, such as a boiler replacement, often arise quickly and are costly to fix.
Starting the project
At its October meeting, the board agreed that, since the funds will be available, the superintendent should continue looking into replacing the bleachers.
"It’s not taking from things that can impact students in the classroom," said Miller-Smith.
Athletic Director Kent Riggs said there are many options to consider, from design to material, and all those factors affect the cost.
He said the bleachers will probably take six weeks to make once they have been ordered, and will then take another four weeks to install.
"We’re thinking of doing the work in the winter or spring so it can be ready for volleyball in the fall," he said.
Although the new bleachers will bring the school up to code and make the area much safer for spectators, there is a drawback.
"We’ll probably lose about 400 seats," said Miller-Smith. "We’ll go from 1,600 seats to 1,200 seats for handicapped purposes," she said.