A pledge by the state for a financial assistance package of up to $7.3 million will help Lake school officials proceed with the design of a new high school building and to recover some of the costs incurred while preparing a temporary replacement for the district’s tornado-damaged school, Jim Witt, superintendent, said.
But the Lake administration and school board remain in negotiations with the district’s insurance carrier over how much of the former high school building can be renovated.
School officials, Witt said, are of the opinion the entire building needs to be razed and replaced while the insurance company contends some classrooms and office space are salvageable pending further testing.
Witt, State Representative Randy Gardner, and State Senator Mark Wagoner hosted a press conference Wednesday at the Middle School – one day before the district’s new school year began – to announce the aid from the state, which includes $4.8 million from the Ohio School Facilities Commission and up to $2.5 million through the Ohio Department of Education.
The OSFC funds will enable the board and administration to “get heavily into the design phase” of a new building, Witt said, adding Lake officials remain dedicated to having a new/renovated high school building open for the 2012-13 school year.
“This assistance will go a long way in helping build a new facility for our students,” Witt said.
How much of the former high school building
Funds coming from the education department will help meet moving and related expenses above those covered by insurance in the preparation of a temporary facility being leased at an Owens Community College building on Tracy Road.
The OSFC was expected to approve the funds from its emergency assistance program at the commission’s meeting Thursday.
Rich Murray, OSFC director, said the funds will be immediately available to the district.
“I greatly admire the determination and dedication shown by the Lake Local Board of Education and the district’s administration as they rose above destruction and worked to make this grant happen,” he said.
Rep. Gardner said he and Sen. Wagoner had been through a series of meetings with the OSFC, education department, and Gov. Ted Strickland’s staff to seek the grant. He said they learned it was likely to be approved an hour or so before the press conference Wednesday afternoon.
Gov. Strickland declared a state of emergency for Wood, Fulton, and Ottawa counties after the June 5 tornado and appealed to the federal government for disaster relief assistance. The Federal Emergency Management Agency turned down his request but the Small Business Administration is providing disaster loans to cover some uninsured losses.