By Rick Palsgrove
With construction of the new high school progressing, the Groveport Madison Board of Education is looking ahead to future potential district projects.
At its Feb. 22 work session, the board discussed possible: improvements to the high school’s existing athletic facilities; future new school buildings; and Community Learning Centers.
Board President Bryan Shoemaker said that, if funds are left over from the high school construction project, the board could consider reinvesting that remaining money in the high school’s existing athletic complex – including Cruiser Stadium, which is home to the football, soccer, and track teams, and the varsity baseball diamond.
(Two new softball fields and five tennis courts are already part of the new high school project. Currently the softball teams are playing on fields at Groveport Elementary until the new fields are built.)
Deputy Superintendent John Hurd provided the board with these estimated costs to upgrade the athletic facilities:
•$766,000 to install artificial turf on the football field.
“This would make Cruiser Stadium a true multi-purpose facility,” said Hurd. “In addition to athletic contests you could hold marching band competitions in the stadium, which are big time money makers.”
•$725,000 to install artificial turf on the entire varsity baseball field as well as upgrade the backstop, dugouts, and add a small multi-purpose building. If artificial turf was only installed on the baseball infield, the total cost would be $375,000. If the natural grass was kept and the other upgrades were made, the cost would be $200,000.
•$258,000 to install artificial turf on the entire two softball fields.
Hurd said modern artificial turf can last “15 to 16 years.” He said the artificial turf would reduce the district’s maintenance costs, noting the cost to re-sod the football field with grass is an estimated $200,000.
Treasurer John Walsh said the district spent $38,000 last year to mow the grass on the athletic fields.
Board member Mary Tedrow said the board needs to obtain community input before proceeding with these potential improvements.
Board member Libby Gray said the board should pursue constructing new school buildings first before considering installing artificial turf.
“It’s going to have to happen,” said Shoemaker of the athletic facility upgrades. “We’re out of space on the high school property. We need to keep the athletic facilities viable and worthy of our students.”
Board member Nancy Gillespie believes the funds to upgrade the athletic facilities should be raised privately and through booster groups as has been done at other school districts. She suggested looking into naming rights and other kinds of fundraisers.
“We owe it to the people in the district who do not have kids or have kids who are not athletes to find another way to fund this,” said Gillespie.
The board made no decision on the potential athletic facility upgrades and will discuss the issue further at future meetings.
The board continues to discuss how to proceed with Phase II of the district’s building plan by considering shifting away from the middle school concept to new schools that would house grades K-8.
The district currently has one high school, three middle schools and six elementaries. Shifting to a K-8 concept would reduce the number of school buildings in the district from 10 to four.
Hurd said three sites would be needed for three potential K-8 buildings housing 1,400 to 1,600 students each. Each building could have two distinct classroom wings separating younger students from students in higher grade levels. He also said the higher grade levels would have different start and end times for the school day, which would further separate older kids from younger kids on bus routes.
According to the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, advantages of a K-8 building are that: it allows for better coordination amongst teachers across grade levels; minimizes student stress around transitions to new schools; allows families to transport students to one location rather than multiple school sites; and increases parental involvement and support. The disadvantages include: with a variety of ages in one building, young students may be bullied or influenced by older students; a K-8 building needs a lot of space; and scheduling becomes more complex for use of gyms, the cafeteria, and other resources.
District officials did not yet have official estimated costs for building three K-8 buildings, but last fall Chris Dumford of VSWC Architects told the board that, with the K-8 concept, “It’s cheaper to build three bigger buildings than six smaller ones.”
Dumford said if the board pursued building three K-8 buildings, each of the schools could be 180,000 square feet and be situated on 24 to 34 acres on three different sites.
Gray said she wants more information on the pros and cons of going to a K-8 concept as opposed to a grades K-5 format.
“Also, I don’t want the design of these buildings to be based on the latest and greatest fads,” said Gray. “That’s how we got the design of two of our middle schools in the 1970s, which have not worked well.”
Hurd said that type of design would not happen now because of current Ohio School Facilities Commission requirements, which were not in place 40 years ago.
“In the 1970s it was the wild west,” said Hurd.
Board member Chris Snyder said the board needs to be forward thinking.
“We have to think about what the district is going to look like in 20 to 30 years,” said Snyder. “What are we building towards?”
“We have to do something,” said Tedrow.
The board plans to hold community meetings to get public feedback on potential building plans.
The district would have to place a bond issue on the ballot for the voters to decide if such buildings would be constructed.
Community Learning Centers
The board is considering incorporating Community Learning Centers into the construction of its future school buildings.
With Community Learning Centers, the district would partner with community organizations to offer academic programs, enrichment activities, health support, and more to students and families. These could include health clinics, mental health counselors, dental clinics, vision center, early childhood centers, preschool programs, and after school and summer recreational programs.
No school district dollars would be used to operate the Community Learning Centers and the community partnerships involved must be financially self-sustaining. Any community partner would have to be approved by the superintendent and the school board. The community partner would be reviewed annually.
“We should have some visionary thinking for our future new buildings,” said Gillespie. “These potential partners could bring things to the district needed by our families and help us serve our students better.”
On March 18, the board will visit the Oyler School in Cincinnati, which has a Community Learning Center program.
“It’s a beautiful place and very inspiring,” said Gillespie of the Oyler School, which she has visited previously. “Cincinnati is doing good stuff for their students.”