By Jeff Gallatin
School district officials are getting ready to make big financial decisions, and they’re seeking direction from the community about which figures to pick.
With the community forum on school facilities set for 7 p.m. Monday in the middle school auditorium, North Olmsted schools Superintendent Mike Zalar reiterated at the April 16 regular school board meeting that school officials want public input about different facility proposals being considered by the district.
District officials were told April 11 by representatives of the Ohio School Facilities Commission that the state would pay for 12 percent of the costs of either building a new middle school facility or a multipurpose or multilevel building. The multilevel building could house multiple grades, such as sixth through 12th, or seventh through 12th. The different grades would go to different wings of the building, with the portions of the building separating students in younger grades from the older students.
State officials told the district they would not contribute any money if North Olmsted chooses to either convert the current high school into a middle school and build a new high school or do massive renovations on the current middle school, which was built early in the 20th century and has had a series of additions added onto it through the years. State officials said it would be more cost-effective to build a new building that took care of middle school education needs, instead of continuing to pour additional money into the current outdated middle school structure.
At the April 16 board meeting, representatives Architectural Vision Group, the firm hired by the district to work on potential facility designs, outlined the initial cost estimates for different facility plans based on the state paying 12 percent of the costs and the North Olmsted district having to fund the remainder of the project.
Building a new middle school for just the seventh and eighth grades, with an initial estimated cost of $21.8 million, would cost the district about $18.8 million. A building that would house sixth through eighth grades would cost about $30.4 million, with the district paying about $26.8 million. Estimates for a fifth- through eighth-grade building were $36.2 million, the district paying about $31.5 million.
Including high school students upped the costs, with a seventh- through 12th-grade setup costing an estimated $64.7 million with the district paying more than $56 million. The most expensive estimate was for a facility housing sixth- through 12th-graders. Costs estimates for it were $72.7 million, with the district paying over $64 million.
State officials said there is roughly a 13-month window in which the district can act upon finalizing a facilities plan in which the state would pay the 12 percent, the maximum amount for which the North Olmsted district is eligible.
North Olmsted school board President John Lasko said the idea of building a multi-level building is worth looking into further.
“In concept, the prospect of one, appropriately designed, ‘multilevel’ building that would encompass grades seven through 12, or possibly grades six through 12, is very intriguing,” Lasko said.
“From a logistical standpoint, it would facilitate the delivery of curriculum and other services to students across a broad number of grades,” he said. “From an economic standpoint, there may be the savings associated with operating one large building rather than three, four or five smaller buildings.”
During the April 16 school board meeting, the AVG representatives noted that district enrollment has dropped sharply and that most district buildings’ student populations are under what is considered to be thebest use of facilities.
Lasko said building a multilevel building could help the district in other areas as well.
“From a facilities standpoint, the ‘footprint’ of one building on the current middle school/high school site could free up space for other uses, such as, for example, a varsity baseball field and a varsity fast-pitch softball field that have long been missing and needed,” he said.
“Given those possibilities, it is more important than ever that our residents attend the forum next Monday evening and voice their comments, opinions and thoughts.”