New high schools could be on the horizon

By Dedra Cordle

Staff Writer

A recent visioning session is bringing into focus a potential timeline to replace two of the oldest high school buildings in the South-Western City Schools District.

The board of education and other district leaders held their annual visioning session last month where they discussed the possibility of a third segment in the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission to construct two replacement high schools for Grove City and Westland.

According to district officials, the earliest voters could see a new bond issue on the ballot would be 2026. They said they would like to place another no new millage bond issue on the ballot but cannot commit to that yet due to a variety of factors such as interest rates, the cost of materials and labor and new tax base information.

If voters were to approve the estimated $200 million replacement high school project, the potential design process would begin in 2027. The potential construction phase would begin in 2028. If all else goes according to schedule, a new Grove City High School and Westland High School would open in 2031.

The current high school buildings located on the southwest side and the westside, respectively, were built in 1970. While the sites have had a number of renovations throughout the decades, there have been no major improvements made to the buildings since 2000.

Both Grove City and Westland high schools have approximately 1,840 students enrolled. District officials say they do not expect those numbers to rise substantially.

“Enrollment is projected to remain the same at each site,” said Evan Debo, the district’s executive director of communications. “While the district occasionally receives community inquiries regarding space at both high schools as it pertains to new development in the area, each site’s annual enrollment has remained nearly the same in recent years.”

Neither of the high schools are currently at capacity but officials say the sites do need to be modified to meet current technological needs and the potential future growth of the region.

“While an 1,800-1,900 student enrollment at each building is below each facility’s capacity, we are mindful of the infrastructure needs to support students in 2024 and beyond with this prospective endeavor,” said Debo. “From technology and safety upgrades to modern classroom amenities, a lot has changed since the buildings first opened their doors in 1970.”

There were no items up for action in relation to the potential third segment in the OFCC project at the visioning session. The last action the board approved pertaining to the potential third segment of the OFCC project took place in June of 2022. During that regular board meeting, the members passed a resolution expressing the district’s intention to apply to the OFCC for funding to help pay for a portion of the cost.

Voters last approved a no new millage bond issue in 2018 to pay for the district’s share of a $193 million build project at the middle school level. That project saw the replacement of the district’s four oldest middle school buildings and renovations to Jackson Middle School and at East Franklin Elementary School.

Six years prior to the passage of that bond issue, voters approved an OFCC project to build 13 new elementary schools, a new Franklin Heights High School, and renovations to Buckeye Woods and Darby Woods elementary school buildings. The cost for that project was $260 million.

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