London Schools starts Phase II building plan

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London City Schools may get the state’s share of its school construction costs in 2010 or 2011, which is several years earlier than school board members were told was possible just a few months ago. The news means Phase II planning must start now.

Over seven years ago, London signed on with the Ohio School Facilities Commis-sion (OSFC) for a shared funding plan to renovate existing schools and build new ones in the district. If the school district generated money locally for 54 percent of the overall building costs (Phase I), then the state would kick in the other 46 percent for Phase II.

London met its end of the bargain with a levy, which has allowed for construction of a new elementary school and renova-tions to the high school. In the initial planning stages, the talk was that London would get the state’s money in 2009, at which time the district could start Phase II.

That projection changed earlier this year when Britt Lewis, London’s new school treasurer, conducted research for the district’s five-year forecast. At that time, Lewis said he was told the state had fallen behind in holding up its end of the bargain on school construction projects, putting London’s turn at state money at about 2015.

That projected date has changed once again.

News of the new date—2010 or 2011—came recently in the form of a phone call from Steed Hammond and Paul, the architects who created plans for London City Schools’ Phase I.

“They told us that Gov. Strickland proposed in the state budget to accelerate the building process,” Lewis said.

Instead of granting its share of funding at a rate of 20 to 30 schools per year, Strickland presented a plan to increase the rate to about 60 schools per year, Lewis said.

To be prepared for the release of state funding in three to four years, London City School administrators and the board of education are starting the planning process now. They met in special session on June 25.

“We have to have a plan ready to go so that as soon as the OSFC says London’s number is up, we’ll be ready to break ground,” Lewis said.

First things first: the district, with help from Steed Hammond and Paul, must complete a maintenance plan for all building and equipment included in Phase I. Lewis expects the plan to be complete by the end of this year.

Next, the district must reconnect with OSFC officials, who will reassess the district’s needs in order to work with the London school board on plans for Phase II.

“We will revisit the master plan and make any necessary changes based on new information on what the district’s needs will be,” Lewis said.

For instance, the district’s student population has not grown as quickly as was originally projected when the plan was completed in 2001. Also, OSFC has learned that its early estimates of the costs to renovate buildings were low, Lewis said. While OSFC’s first assessment showed London Junior High as being just under the line for renovation, today’s assessment likely will show a need for its replacement, Lewis said.

London City Schools’ original master plan called for the following for Phase II:

• addition of 10 kindergarten and pre-kindergarten classrooms, one music room, and more cafeteria space at the elementary school;

• addition of nine classrooms, one teacher work room, one mechanical room, one child development lab, and one project lab to the front of the high school;

• addition of two classrooms, one vocal room with storage, one custodial workshop, one mechanical room, expanded student locker rooms, and one physical education multipurpose room to the back of the high school; and

• renovation of the junior high.

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