By Dedra Cordle
The South-Western City Schools District and the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission have closed the chapter on the shared middle school build project. Now, they will have to determine when the appropriate time will be to open the book on future construction plans.
At a recent board of education meeting, Superintendent Dr. Bill Wise said the district has started to field inquiries from the state regarding potential build projects that would have a focus on the intermediate schools and two of its oldest high schools.
He told the board that while he felt it was “too soon” to discuss rebuilds or renovations at the intermediate level as they are relatively new, they might have to discuss rebuilding plans for Grove City High School and Westland High School sooner rather than later.
“They essentially have not been touched since 2000,” Wise said.
Built in 1970, the two high schools have had a number of renovations throughout the decades but those were largely seen as “band-aid” fixes to stem the problems that arise from aging infrastructure, said Evan Debo, the district’s executive director of communications.
Although their enrollment numbers are stable – both schools have approximately 1,800 students – the buildings would likely have to be expanded to fit future growth projections in both of their geographic areas.
Board member Anthony Caldwell asked whether the district would be able to handle the potential growth of the region as a whole. Wise said he believed they would be able to due to recent numbers from the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission.
“The commission shows central Ohio as a growing part of the state, one of the few growing parts of the state, but they believe our enrollment has been artificially high and will likely continue to level off,” he said, adding that they expect 1,000 to 1,300 additional students throughout the district annually.
He mentioned that the district is not likely to experience a population surge due to its distance from Intel’s superconductor plant in New Albany that will open in 2025.
Regardless of that factor, Wise said the board needs to make plans for the current student population and whatever growth may arise in the future. He said that he does not believe they will have to decide whether to request a bond issue to fund the third phase until 2026.
“That may change, but looking at where we are right now, I do not see a need to go to the voters before that time,” he said.
Due to the size of the schools and the rising cost of materials, district officials believe this potential OFCC segment could cost north of $100 million. In comparison, segment one cost approximately $260 million to replace 13 elementary schools, make repairs to another, and build a new Franklin Heights High School. Segment two cost approximately $153 million to rebuild four of its oldest middle schools and make additions to its fifth. Additional roofing and paving projects were also made across the district through these segments.