On Tuesday, January 24, the Board of Education held its first facilities meeting. The purpose of the event was to present community members with possible plans to upgrade the district’s schools that have already been discussed over the past few months by the Facilities Committee – as well as plans that have yet to be discussed – and hear community feedback on those plans.

School Board President T.J. Turner led the listening session, the first of four scheduled to be held through April, as the council deliberates on choosing a facility upgrade plan to go before voters in November 2023.

“There are four months of discussions and reflections ahead [the public] and with feedback from the community, we can adapt those plans and hopefully come to a consensus by May,” Turner said.

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Turner laid out the historical context of the plans now being considered by the board, including the 2017 evaluation of local public schools by the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission (OFCC). That assessment led to a levy in 2018 that would fund a combination of new construction and renovations for the middle and high schools on East Enon Road for $18.5 million, with a possible 17% state offset. A plan for Mills Lawn Primary School has been shelved indefinitely. This fee was rejected at the polling stations.

A second facility evaluation in 2019 by the architectural firm Fanning Howey concluded that the cost of renovating schools on both campuses compared to building new facilities was the same. The OFCC proposed a 26% construction reimbursement if the new single-campus facility is built according to state guidelines, and a 2021 levy to fund the new K–12 facility was included in the ballot. The facility was planned to cost $35.5 million before the final expected reimbursement from OFCC of about $9.2 million; the levy was not approved by voters.

Architect Mike Ruetschle Architects, whose firm Ruetschle Architects has been contracted by the district to advise on the facility planning process and develop potential floor plans for school renovations, provided information on potential renovation plans that have been discussed so far by the Facilities Committee. .

These plans include one that will combine new construction and deep renovation in both campuses, restoring the facilities to new conditions, at a cost of about $50.6 million. The second plan, dubbed the “fundamental plan,” will focus on critical needs identified by school administrators and staff, including a complete renovation of the heating and air conditioning, electrical, mechanical, plumbing, lighting and technology systems, as well as construction of new security lobbies and music rooms. rooms/storm shelters on both campuses, an estimated cost of $28 million.

“So these are the prices … the committee is giving the board the freedom of the range to then further discuss what the plan might look like,” Rutschle said.

Building Committee member Jerry Papania also spoke about the third renovation plan, the “plus plan,” which was originally presented at the December school board meeting. This plan, which builds on the master plan, will include new floors, trim, ceilings and furniture in those parts of Mills Lawn and Yellow Springs High Schools that will not be included in the master plan, as well as the demolition of McKinney Middle School’s modular facility known as “shoe box”, and construction of five new classrooms. The estimated cost of the plus plan is $29.5 million.

Rutschle, at Turner’s request, also provided an updated cost estimate for the 105,000-square-foot K–12 facility, designed in 2021, adjusted for inflation. The same facility, which would have cost $35.5 million two years ago, would now cost about $49 million, he estimates. However, he said, if such a facility were built according to OFCC guidelines, the county would be eligible for reimbursement of 27% of the roughly $13.3 million in construction costs.

“I say this with confidence, but allow me to disclaim,” Rütschle added. “The state will tell us how much this plan costs, so we have to get them involved in the process — they have to tell us what those numbers are.”

Rutschle went on to say that while he believes a single K–12 campus is “more efficient” than two, he recommends the board consider the additional square footage if it intends to build a new single campus.

“There’s just never enough room [in OFCC co-funded facilities] for teachers to teach their students in appropriate settings, so we have to take that into account,” he said.

Although OFCC will only co-finance the new 105,000-square-foot facility, additional square footage may be financed separately. Rütschle recommended adding an additional 14,000 square feet to the potential single-campus plan, which is estimated to cost a total of $55.8 million.

Before adjourning the session to community comment, Turner presented another option for the board and citizens to consider: a “hybrid” plan that would build a new middle and high school on the current East Enon Road site and redevelop the Mills Lawn. In addition, the hybrid plan would include moving fifth- through sixth-grade classes to the middle school and potentially adding preschool classes to Mills Lawn. He said the new building on East Enon Road could still benefit from OFCC co-funding, adding that he had spoken to OFCC officials who raised the possibility that the redevelopment at Mills Lawn could also be eligible for some co-funding . .

Turner acknowledged that the hybrid plan would require more research and discussion. Still, he said, he would like to present a plan that could address many of the concerns expressed by community members, including the two-campus facilities and the desire to “maximize the credit that comes back from the state.”

“We are aware that this has been a polarizing debate in the community for several years, and we are trying our best to provide an adequate education for our children and, in addition, to meet the demands of the community,” he said. said.

During the community input portion of the listening session, several community members spoke with interest about the hybrid plan, but noted that citizens would need more information about the plan and time to consider it.

“It’s hard to give feedback on it without seeing it [in advance]” Cindy Seek said.

Abigail Cobb and George Beery, who are married, both spoke in favor of the new K–12 campus, with Cobb noting that she was surprised by the “resistance to having a single campus” among other constituents.

“When you read about K–12, single-campus schools, it’s exciting!” she said.

Several others expressed concern that some of the plans being considered could be too much of a financial burden on the tax base. Laura Curlis suggested the county talk to the county auditor about what the various plans would add to the tax burden on community members, and Kathy Adams said she thinks the basic plan — the least expensive of those being considered — may be the one many voters want to support. .

Naomi Bonhorno commented on an issue that has been discussed by several community members at past Building Committee meetings but has yet to be discussed in depth by the district — the financial and emotional costs of relocating students during renovations or new construction — and added that she doesn’t think the base and plus plans are adequate for ensuring the needs of the district.

“Our children have moved around a lot over the last couple of years and it has had a huge impact on their mental health and learning,” she said. “Asking them to move more really, really worries me and I have to feel really good about the plan to sign them up for it. … I am very concerned about voting on a plan that only addresses half of the issue.”

Both Sick and Michael Slaughter, the latter of whom is a member of the Facilities Committee, asked Treasurer Jay McGrath when and how any expected refunds for the OFCC co-funded project would affect the voting public. McGrath clarified that the construction costs are being financed “up front,” with voters paying taxes at a rate equal to the total value of the bond before the discount.

Approved rebates from the OFCC typically take about two years after construction is completed to be returned to school districts, after which districts have “options” for what to do with the rebate funds, he said.

The county can decide to use the rebate to pay off the remaining debt on the bond, reducing the tax rate that voters are responsible for over the life of the bond. However, he added, if the project is financed by a combination of a bond issue and income tax, as was the case with the 2021 levy, the county could instead leave the refund to cover the county’s operating expenses or “do a little bit of both.”

“And that’s what’s being discussed when the time comes,” McGrath said. “It’s a discussion between the treasurer and the school board about what they want to do with those funds.”

The school board will hold its next listening session on Tuesday, February 21st. To view documents shared during the Jan. 24 listening session, go to bit.ly/3HMwwlk and click on “Meetings” at the top right, then “2023” on the left, then “Jan. 24, 2023.”


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