Middle school building plan moving forward

By Dedra Cordle
Staff Writer

Well before voters were asked in 2012 to approve a ‘no new millage’ bond issue for the construction and renovation of multiple facilities, officials with the South-Western City Schools District hosted a number of community forums to gather input on how they envision the interior and exterior features of the schools that were proposed to be built.

Slowly, the look of 13 elementary school buildings and one high school began to take shape.
According to Michael Dingeldein, the director of architecture and planning with Community Design Alliance, the public sought clean, modern buildings that had a feeling of cohesiveness despite miles of separation.

With voter approval, the construction of the build project, which was often referred to as Segment 1 of the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission (OFCC) project, began shortly thereafter.

Recently, the $260 million project was marked as completed and now district officials and its OFCC partners are gearing up for the second portion of a continuing build project.

District Superintendent Dr. Bill Wise explained that Segment 2 would oversee the replacement of Brookpark, Finland, Norton and Pleasant View Middle Schools. It would also include renovations to Jackson Middle School and East Franklin Elementary School.

He added that with the exception of Jackson Middle School, which was built in 2001, the remainder of the middle schools were constructed more than 50 years ago.

Though the board of education has yet to vote to place a ‘no new millage’ bond issue on the November ballot, the district has already begun to host a number of community forums to gather input on how they envision the middle school facilities to be constructed.

The district began hosting the forums the second week of April and have thus far completed four informational gathering session. The next, and last, is planned for April 26 at 5:30 p.m. at Brookpark Middle School, located at 2803 Southwest Blvd. in Grove City.

During the forums, the public is asked about a variety of designs (traditional, monumental, and contemporary) they might like to see, the materials and color schemes that should or should not be used and some of the features they prefer.

While still compiling information, Dingeldein said one common theme expressed by a majority of participants is that they still want a clean, modern look but seem to be slightly more flexible on the cohesiveness of the middle school buildings.

“We are getting a lot of positive feedback for the middle school designs that share similar characteristics but have that one attribute that sets them apart from the others,” he said after the forum at Finland Middle School on April 16.

Wise said he is excited to hear from the community about build ideas for the middle schools and says he has a few of his own.

“It is very important to me that we have separation from buses and cars when it comes to the drop off area.”

He considers this to be a safety issue and would want to see that design implemented at the middle school level.

Those in attendance spoke in favor of exterior features such as solar panels and green space, and they also spoke in favor of safety issues such as public admittance only through the main office.

Wise said there is a long way to go in this process and they will continue to hold forums on Segment 2 and the ‘no new millage’ bond issue in the future.

Should voters approve the likely bond issue in November, the next steps would include further design planning, the bidding process and construction of the buildings, which could begin in the summer of 2020. It is estimated it will take 22 to 24 months to build a middle school.

Segment 2 is projected to cost $165 million with half of the core cost of the project coming from the state.

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