By Rick Palsgrove
The Groveport Madison school board unanimously voted to place a combined operating levy and bond issue for a new high school on the May 6 ballot.
“We need to financially stabilize,” said Groveport Madison Superintendent Bruce Hoover. “We also need a long term facility plan now. We have to make a commitment to address the learning needs of the students.”
The five year levy would generate $4.5 million annually. The $33.3 million, 38-year bond issue to build a new high school is coupled with a .5 mill permanent improvement levy. The annual cost for the owner of a $100,000 home for the combined ballot issue would be $312.
According to Hoover, approval of the ballot issue would allow the district to reinstate high school busing and other transportation; reinstate extracurricular activities; invest in textbooks and technology; restore and improve college and career courses; allocate $1 million for building repairs; create a $3 million financial carry over by 2017; and enable the construction of a new high school that could open by the fall of 2017.
If voters reject the ballot issue, Hoover said $3 million in cuts would be necessary. These cuts would include not reinstating high school busing and other transportation; eliminating all extracurricular activities; eliminating art and music programs; 27 staff cuts; reducing the number of administrators, guidance and support staff; consolidating middle schools; and possibly closing some school buildings.
The board made $4.6 million in cuts after the district’s levy failure last May. Those cuts included freezing salaries and reducing health benefits as well as staffing cuts, eliminating high school busing and reductions to some after-school activities. Hoover noted that, in the last four years, the district has made $11.5 million overall in cuts. He also stated the district’s annual per pupil spending has dropped from $8,400 to $7,700, which he compared to Upper Arlington, which spends $15,000 per student.
High school issue
According to district officials, maintaining and renovating the nearly 50-year-old high school would cost $16 million spread out over a 16 to 20 year period using the $1 million available in the permanent improvement fund each year.
So instead, the board wants to build a new $62.9 million, 235,000 square foot high school using Ohio Schools Facilities Commission funding with the state paying $29.6 million and the local share paying $33.3 million.
The high school, located at 4475 S. Hamilton Road, would be torn down and a new high school would be built where the current parking lot, two softball fields and tennis courts now stand. The softball fields and tennis courts would be moved to elsewhere on the property. The new building option could include either constructing a high school with a new auditorium and one, large gymnasium; or keeping the existing auditorium and gymnasium and then building a new high school with a second, larger gymnasium.
In December, SHP Leading Design noted problems at the high school include:
•overcrowding with 1,400 students having only 900 lockers;
•five lunch periods, which disrupts class schedules as the cafeteria only seats 275 students at a time;
•having only one gymnasium that several boys and girls athletic teams, and other activities, must share, requiring some teams to hold practices until 9:30 p.m.
•the existing high school is 149,851 square feet and an additional 85,000 square feet is needed to house the current number of students;
•aging, rusting water lines must be replaced; and
•14 modular classrooms.
Other areas needing to be addressed at the high school include replacing ceilings, replacing the roof, renovating restrooms, renovating labs, replacing interior and exterior doors, renovating fine arts rooms, and window replacements.
Hoover said the state informed the district the high school is in “such poor condition and is so overcrowded that replacing it would be a more cost effective solution than continuing to maintain and repair it.”
He said replacing the high school would allow millions of dollars from the budget that are now used for repairs and maintenance to be redirected for other educational and maintenance purposes.
High school principal Aric Thomas said the high school has continuing plumbing and electrical problems. He noted a 3-inch main water pipe that runs the length of the main hallway often breaks. The ceiling tiles in this hallway are stained from the frequent leaks.
“Once the leak is fixed and the water pressure is brought back up, the pressure finds the next weak spot in the pipe and it bursts again,” said Thomas.
Leaks in the roof and plumbing give the school a musty odor, make educational materials wet, damage ceilings and lighting, and create electrical issues, said Thomas.
“Water and electricity do not mix,” said Thomas.
Voters in the Groveport Madison school district have not approved a bond issue for new buildings since the early 1970s.