SWCS could get millions from OSFC

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The South-Western City School District could see new facilities in the near future.

The Ohio School Facilities Commission (OSFC) is offering funding to the district based on an update of its 2004 master plan.

At the Jan. 14 SWCS Board of Education meeting, the board passed a resolution to authorize design professionals to assist the district in reviewing and updating the master plan. In that plan, district officials estimated that they would need about $325 million to develop a school facility project.

"This could involve new buildings, remodeling buildings, additions or demolition," said Phil Warner, deputy superintendent for SWCS. "All this is is the OSFC asking the board to consider projects that would be evaluated by the OSFC."

According to Sandra Nekoloff, executive director of communications for the district, the OSFC approached the board on this topic. Originally, SWCS was not scheduled to receive funds from the OSFC until 2012 but due to a tobacco settlement at the state level, the commission was able to bump the district up. They have offered to fund 47 percent of the total project cost.

"This is a way for the district to get more funds earlier," said Nekoloff  "but the board it not sure if they want to go down that route."

She added, "There is still a lot to be discussed but it would be irresponsible for us not to look into it."

Superintendent Dr. Bill Wise explained the district and the design professionals would need to determine the scope of the work.

"We need to work together to determine what belongs in the master plan," he commented.

The master plan is designed to review enrollment projections and housing needs for many years down the road. If the OSFC approves the district’s revised plan, the construction would be stretched out over multiple years. SWCS could see state money as early as this year, instead of 2012. Since the commission has offered to pay almost half of the projected cost, it leaves the district to match 53 percent of the funds.

"There would be voter participation," said Nekoloff.

The district plans to hold a community meeting on the OSFC funding sometime in March. This gathering would allow residents to let district officials know what they envision for the future of SWCS and what should be included in the master plan. The board must have a revised plan submitted to the OSFC in June.

The board also approved a resolution to advertise for bids for replacement school buses.

The district could purchase up to 14 84-passenger capacity buses and five 40-passenger handicapped buses with lifts. Scott Deubner, business manager for SWCS, explained that each bus is approximately $78,000.

Deubner said some of the buses are 10 to 15 years old and have a quarter of a million miles on them.

"We have to look at how much it is costing us for maintenance," he said. "Ten thousand is too much to spend on maintenance."

Ohio law determines how the buses are made and what is included inside as far as safety measures go. The handicapped buses are smaller but still cost about the same as a standard bus due to the lift and special safety features.

The new buses will be delivered approximately six months after the bid is awarded. Deubner said the district could see the new buses in September or October.

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