Public input to shape district plan

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The community has spoken but will the South-Western City School District Board of Education listen?

About 480 community members, along with a 50-member steering committee, said they want a cost effective school facilities plan. This information was relayed to the board at the May 12 meeting.

According to Deputy Superintendent Phil Warner, the district began working with the Ohio School Facilities Commission (OSFC) in January. The OSFC has offered the district 47 percent of the money to fund a $400 million plus project to build new schools and bring the district up to current design standards. The board has to update the master plan by next month in order to receive the funds.

After months of community meetings and steering committee meetings, the consensus is that the district move forward with Option C. After the first round of community meetings, DEJONG, a company hired by the OSFC to review the facilities came up with four options – C being the most cost effective.

This option includes replacing 13 elementary schools and minor renovations to Darby Woods and Buckeye Woods Elementary Schools.

It would include minor renovations to Franklin Woods, Galloway Ridge, Holt Crossing and Park Street Intermediate Schools. Hayes Intermediate would also receive minor renovations and an addition, estimated at $10.3 million. Warner said the addition would be about 37,000 square feet.

Another intermediate school, yet-to-be determined, would also get an addition. Troy Glover, with DEJONG, said they want to leave the school open to see where enrollment increases.

The option would replace four middle schools. Jackson Middle School would receive minor renovations.

On the high school level, the plan would replace Franklin Heights High School. Grove City and Westland would get major renovations and additions. Minor renovations would be made to Central Crossing and the Career Academy.

In the plan, all modular units would be eliminated. Currently, the district has 81 modular buildings. It also includes all-day everyday kindergarten at the elementary schools. The grade configuration would remain the same.

The cost is estimated at $429 million – $441 million.

The OSFC would fund 47 percent of the project. The remaining 53 percent would fall to the taxpayers. The project cost does not include locally funded initiatives, such as additional costs for land acquisitions, swing space, moving costs, inflation and technology.

“The master plan is a living document,” said Lorrie Sturm who was speaking on behalf of the steering committee. “Changes may happen.”

The committee said the plan is cost effective and will meet the needs of the district for years to come.

The district will have to approve the master plan by June to be eligible for funds for the 2008-09 school year. They would have the funds for one year. In that time, voters would have to pass a bond issue. If it is not passed, the district falls off the funding list but can reapply if an issue is passed.

The district was originally slated to become eligible for OSFC funds in 2011. As a result of a tobacco settlement, the state had $4.2 billion to spend over the next six years and SWCS was moved up on the list.

The district has approximately 20,500 students. Enrollment is expected to increase by 1,700 students over the next 10 years. It is the sixth largest school district in the state.

The board plans to review the plan at the May 19 meeting, where board members and school administrators will give their final questions and comments. The board may adopt the master plan at the meeting.

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