The Northwood school board is looking at three possible sites to construct a new elementary, middle, and high school combination facility for pre-kindergarten through grade 12 students.
The Ohio School Facilities Commission (OSFC) approved over $11.5 million in state funding earlier this month to construct the building. The OSFC, which oversees the state’s school facility renovation and construction program, also approved three possible locations where the school will be built: The former Lark Elementary School on Andrus Road on the west side, 20 acres of school owned property on Bradner Road on the east side, and on property where the schools are currently located at Woodville and Lemoyne roads, according to Superintendent Greg Clark.
Initially, the OSFC approved just the Lark and Bradner sites. They had safety concerns about the Woodville/Lemoyne location, said Clark.
“If we can’t find more suitable sites, the commission would allow us to put the building back on the current site,” said Clark. “A central location would be better than one on either side of town. But the OSFC would like us to continue to find something other than our current site. When they did the assessments of our buildings, they had concerns about our current location. It’s more suited for industrial use. We have I-280 to the west, Woodville Road to the north, Lemoyne Road to the east. So there are safety considerations with all the traffic. There are also petroleum pipelines near the school.”
The Lark and Bradner sites also have limitations, he said.
“There are folks who think they are too far away and I think they are a bit squeamish about that,” he said.
In addition, the Bradner Road site is agricultural.
“The only utilities readily available there is water. We’d have to add more to make that site ready to go. So we have some costs associated with that site. The Lark site, from a pure cost standpoint, would be the best because we already own it. We’d just knock the building down and build the new one. One-third of our kids could walk to school, which would be nice, so there would be cost efficiencies there by reducing busing expenses. Right now, we make busing available for all students. We have a few kids who use the crossing guard at Woodville and Lemoyne. But it would be a pretty busy highway to cross at rush hour.
Clark said he prefers the current site, despite the OSFC’s concerns.
“Obviously we’ve been there forever and we’ve managed. It’s been a suitable site for the last 77 years. It’s what our community has grown accustomed to. All our athletic facilities are at that site.”
There is not enough space for athletic facilities at the Lark or Bradner sites, he added.
“We probably need 40 acres in which to fit the athletic facilities,” he said. “That would add tremendous cost to the project, and it would have to be completely locally funded. The OSFC will not fund sports facilities. We have a football stadium, soccer field, and a track that is less than 10 years old at the current site. We don’t want to see all that investment just go away. If we’re not on that site, our athletic facilities would stay there.”
If either the Bradner or Lark sites are chosen, plans would include athletic facilities at some point in the future, he said.
The district must raise its local share of the project budget within 13 months before state funding can be released. If it is unable to do so, the district is considered “lapsed,” but can still participate in OSFC programs once local funding is obtained.
The board will vote at a meeting on July 30 to place a 4.9-mill levy on the November ballot as part of the district’s local share of funding, according to Clark. The levy would be combined with a .25 percent earned income tax proposal, he added, and internal financing. Those on a fixed income would not be affected by the earned income tax.
“We’re trying to be sensitive to those folks,” said Clark.
If the levy is defeated, the district would try to get one passed again, he said.
“I don’t know if we have a Plan B yet. We have a year to get our share put together. So we would have one, possibly two chances to be on the ballot should the board choose to do that. Right now, I’m focused on informing people what we’re talking about and getting this done in November.”
If the levy is passed, construction plans would be implemented almost immediately, he said.
“There is a year of planning, starting in January. We can tell the state we got our part done. If everything goes perfectly, a new building would be constructed in the fall of 2016.
Earlier this year, the district formed a Facilities Planning Committee, which held community forums to review its options after the OSFC in December offered state funding for the facility renovation and construction program. Following the forums, the committee recommended that the district participate in the program.
“We do have a need,” said Clark. “Our facilities are old. If we don’t build new with the state, we’re going to have to make some major infrastructure investments some other way. Our newest building, the high school, will be 50 years old this fall. All our buildings look really good, we’ve kept them up. Regardless of whether we are partnering with the state for a new structure or not, we have to deal with the aging infrastructure of our buildings.