New school to be built sooner than expected

London City Schools will build a new middle school a year earlier than expected.

The schedule change is due to the Ohio School Facilities Commission (OSFC) moving London up on the list of schools eligible to receive their share of state funding for construction projects.

London voters put the overall construction project into motion with passage of a bond levy in 2000. The $29 million in local funds, representing 54 percent of the overall cost, has been used to build a new elementary school and make renovations and additions to the high school.

The state is responsible for the other 46 percent of the costs, $25 million, which the district plans to use to build a middle school and make further additions to the high school and elementary.

Originally, the district expected to receive the state’s $25 million in July 2009. Last week, the OSFC notified school officials that they could get the money as early as November of this year.

According to Superintendent Steve Allen, OSFC has given London three choices on how to proceed.

“We can decline the money. We can be placed on the fast track and receive approval by November or sooner. Or we can ask for a year for planning,” Allen said. “We are choosing the fast track.”

District officials will inform the OSFC of their decision at a meeting on May 6. The two parties will then discuss timeline details.

“We are ready. We won’t be rushing because we have already done our planning,” Allen said. “Our greatest concern is the time table on the land deal with the city.”

A facilities planning committee, made up of community members and school representatives, spent the fall and winter putting together a construction plan for the state’s share of the funds. The part of the plan that is not set in stone is the location for the new middle school.

Officials from the school district and the City of London have been discussing the possibility of a land swap. The idea is that the district would release the property that makes up the downtown campus (now the location of the sixth-grade building, old middle school building and administrative offices) to the city. In return, the city would release to the district property located across the street from the elementary and high schools for construction of a new middle school.

While the land issue needs to be resolved quickly, Allen said the district is ready to move ahead with the project.

“The longer we wait to get the money, the higher our costs will be,” he said, referring to inflation and increasing fuel costs. “We want to maximize the value of the state’s money to get the most out of it that we can.”

Allen emphasized that the middle school project will be paid for completely with state money. The district and its tax-payers already met their obligations by passing the bond levy in 2000.

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