By Dedra Cordle
The construction of a new learning center for students on the westside is one step closer to coming to fruition in the South-Western City Schools District.
At its meeting on July 10, the board of education unanimously approved a bid by the Dublin-based Ruscilli Construction Company to replace the Stiles Family Resource Center.
The board will utilize $5.31 million in federal funds to cover the cost of the new building. They have also agreed to set aside $500,000 in contingency funds for unforeseen items and/or owner requested changes during the construction process.
The scope of the project will entail building a standalone facility to the west of the current site, which is slightly adjacent to Stiles Elementary School. It will house 10 permanent classrooms. It will also include office spaces, meeting spaces, and a health clinic.
According to a prior interview with Evan Debo, the district’s executive director of communications, the existing Stiles Family Resource Center was built nearly three decades ago and it can no longer withstand the current and projected growth of the population on the western boundary.
“Due to growing early childhood enrollments and a rising need for special education interventions at the preschool level, the building is outgrowing its physical location” he explained. “Coupled with an aging facility, primarily made up of modular components, the site was identified as a development project to serve both academic groups with 21st century amenities.”
The current timeline for the project calls for the construction to begin in the fall of 2023. If all goes according to plan and there are no delays in the procurement of building materials, the learning facility should be completed in the late spring/early summer of 2024.
Among the parents who are excited to see the construction of a new Stiles Family Resource Center is Kyra Paul. Last year, the resident of the westside attended a board of education meeting to implore them to allocate dollars to build a new learning facility.
She said she was thankful that the board listened to the community and were able to utilize federal funds to build a new facility. She added that she can hardly wait for it to open.
“We are all so excited – the staff, the families, everybody,” she said.
During the meeting on July 10, Paul addressed the board once again to bring forth a potential issue regarding the plans for the new facility. She said she was concerned because the plans do not call for bathrooms to be attached to each classroom. She believes this is a necessary amenity for early childhood learning centers.
“This has been brought to my attention as a very big concern for the teachers and the staff that will occupy the building,” she said. “Preschool aged children often are newly toilet trained and need to use the bathroom when they need to use the bathroom.
“This can make it difficult to stay in compliance with student and staff ratios following (Ohio Department of Job and Family Services), (Ohio Department of Education) and Head Start guidelines.”
She asked that the board consider investing the contingency dollars to build additional bathrooms in the classroom.
After the meeting, Debo said that while there is a compelling case to be made about the teacher ratios and the potential loss of instructional time to address the bodily needs of the students, the contingency funds would not cover the cost of building 10 classrooms with adjoining bathrooms.
“The $500,000 contingency funds would not be nearly enough for that project,” he said.
Debo explained that since the district will be utilizing the federal dollars they received through the American Rescue Plan and The Elementary and Secondary School Elementary Relief Fund, they are limited in what additional monies the district can use for planned projects.
“I don’t want to say that this [the construction of additional bathroom space at the Stiles Family Resource Center] will never happen, but with the money we are working with on this project there will be no room for it right now,” he said. “But who knows what can happen in the future. We could apply for grant dollars and there could be some room for creativity with the new state budget.”