By Jeff Gallatin
School officials are considering different potential middle school facility construction plans after officials from the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission (OFCC) told them Friday the district is eligible to receive 12 percent of its construction costs from the state.
Among the facilities work being considered by school officials are construction of a new middle school; renovations on the current middle school campus; converting the current high school to a middle school and building a new high school; and building a multipurpose building with several wings. which could house students from several grade levels in the different wings. In current discussion, the multipurpose building could house middle and high school students, and possibly add in students from younger grades who would attend different wings away from the older students.
In saying the district could get 12 percent of the costs from the state, the OFCC officials said they would give North Olmsted the 12 percent if the district builds a new middle school or if it builds the multipurpose building housing several different grades. It would not be eligible for the state funding if it converts the old high school into a middle school and builds a new high school, or if it performs major renovations on the current middle school. If the district chose to try to renovate the current middle school, state officials indicated that they believe it would be more cost-effective to just build a new school.
North Olmsted City School’s Superintendent Mike Zalar said he’s glad the district has different options.
“It was good news from the state,” Zalar said. “Now we have to review the different options to consider the best way to utilize the funds.”
He said the state officials indicated they are open to the district’s considering different plans for using the construction funds.
“They did discuss different possibilities with us,” he said. “They only stipulated that the funds must be used in some way for facilities to be used for the middle school educational process.”
District officials have discussed for more than a decade the need to replace the current middle school, which has seen multiple additions to the original building since it was built early in the 20th century.
Zalar said now is a good time to consider the best way to proceed for the district’s task force for the facilities master plan, which is working on recommendations on how North Olmsted should address the middle school and other facility issues in the future. The task force is scheduled to meet several times in upcoming weeks, a regular school board meeting is set for tonight and the district has set a community forum for 7 p.m. April 28 in the middle school auditorium.
Zalar said he expects the facilities issues to be discussed in all those forums, and reiterated that no final decision has been made on how the district should proceed.
“Right now we’re reviewing data from the architects and cost factors for the various options on how to proceed,” Zalar said. “During the next few weeks we will need to be narrowing down the possibilities on how we should proceed.”
Zalar said he, district officials and the task force will present the proposed building options at the community forum and ask for public feedback.
School board President John Lasko said he is pleased by the state’s willingness to provide some funding as well as consider different ways of bettering the middle school.
“The financial assistance is certainly welcome as well as the state being willing to discuss different ways of doing this,” he said.
He said having different options is good for the district.
“Being able to think outside of the box is good for the district,” he said. “It’s encouraging to note that they are not wedded to preconceived plans or ideas, such as building a new middle school or converting the current high school into a middle school and building a new high school.
“The concept of a building a major new facility which will have different wings and the ability to house different students and other activities in those wings is certainly something that will cause, and certainly merits, discussion,” he said.
Zalar said the district will work with the OFCC on the best way to maximize the use of the funds within state guidelines. He indicated it still would like to present a final plan to the school board and community and have it approved by the end of the school year.