"We have a buy one get one free opportunity – so to speak," said South-Western City School District Deputy Superintendent Phil Warner at a community facilities dialogue meeting on April 17 at Franklin Heights High School.
He was referring to the Ohio Schools Facilities Commission’s (OSFC) offer to fund 47 percent of a project that would bring district buildings up to current design standards. The project was previously thought to be estimated at $325 million, based on a facilities evaluation in 2003. Warner explained that due to inflation and building needs, the project would now cost over $400 million. The community would pay 53 percent of that.
In order for the district to be eligible for OSFC funds for the 2008/09 school year, it will have to update its master plan by June. Warner said the district was contacted by the OSFC in October. They were informed that due to a state tobacco settlement, the state had $4.2 billion to spend in the next six years. The OSFC oversees rebuilding of Ohio’s public schools. It serves as a funding partner in financing construction projects. The district was originally slated to receive state funding in 2011.
"We (district leaders) thought this was too good of an opportunity not to bring forward to the community," said Warner.
After several weeks of community input, the district came up with four options for the board of education to consider. All the scenarios would eliminate portables and would include all day-every day kindergarten.
The estimated cost of this option is $439-$451 million.
The option would include 15 new 450-600 student elementary schools. There would also be minor renovations to Darby Woods and Buckeye Woods.
The five existing intermediate schools would undergo minor renovations and receive an addition. The intermediate schools would house between 560-750 students.
There would be four new 680-750 student middle schools built to replace existing facilities. Jackson Middle School would get minor renovations.
On the high school level, Franklin Heights High School would get a new building. Westland and Grove City would receive major renovations and additions. Central Crossing and the Career Academy would get minor renovations, which would primarily include new technology.
This would cost an estimated $445-$457 million.
In option B, 17 new elementary schools, of less than 500 students each, would be built. Darby Woods and Buckeye Woods would receive minor renovations.
It would include a new intermediate school for 400 students and minor renovations and additions at Franklin Woods, Galloway Ridge, Holt Crossing and Park Street Intermediate schools. The renovations would mostly be new technology.
The middle school and high school improvements are the same as in Option A.
This option would cost an estimated $429-$441 million.
The option would include 13 new elementary schools ranging in size from 500-630 students. Minor renovations, mostly new technology, would be added at Darby Woods and Buckeye Woods.
On the intermediate level, Hayes would receive minor renovations and an addition. There would be another addition at a yet-to-be determined school. Franklin Woods, Galloway Ridge, Holt Crossing and Park Street would get minor renovations.
Improvements to the middle and high schools are the same as in Option A.
This is estimated at $439-$451 million.
Option D would change the current grade configuration. This would allow 12 new K-3 elementary schools, one housing 560 students and 11 housing approximately 500 students. Darby Woods and Buckeye Woods would still be in line for minor renovations.
There would be three new 4-6 intermediate schools, housing about 660 students. The option would maintain all current intermediate schools and allow for minor renovations and additions.
The middle school and high school improvements would be the same as in Option A.
About the options
The district came up with these options based on community input and recommendations from an appointed steering committee. It was decided that there is not enough support for an additional high school at this time.
According to the OSFC, a school must house at least 350 students in order to construct a new school. When the cost of renovating a school facility exceeds two-thirds the cost of replacing the facility, the commission would recommend a new facility.
If the board approves the updated master plan, the district will have the funds locked in for one year. If they cannot pass an issue in that time, the district would drop off the funding list but they could reapply if the community supported it. The district could place an issue on the November ballot, if the board approves the plan.
Since the OCFS would agree to fund about half of a $400 million plus project, the community would be responsible for the remainder. If the SWCS residents were asked to vote on a three-mill levy, about $234 million, the owner of a $150,000 home would pay an additional $138 per year. The owner of a $200,000 home would annually pay $184.
"It will never be any less expensive that right now to address the issue," said Warner.
The district has approximately 20,500 students. Enrollment is expected to increase by 1,700 students in the next ten years. It is the sixth largest school district in the state.
These options will be presented to the board at the May 12 meeting. A resolution could be adopted as early as May 19. If you were unable to attend any of the community input meetings but would like to give your opinion, you can fill out a questionnaire online at www.swcs.us.