By Sue Botos
It has been many years since the Rocky River High School smokestack sent clouds of ash into the air, so many that most staff and administrators are not sure what its original function was. The one thing that everyone agrees on is that the structure needs to be removed.
During the Nov. 4 open house at the high school, which will precede Superintendent Michael Shoaf’s state of the schools address (at 7 p.m.), attendees will have the chance to contribute to this final phase, as well as other portions, of the school’s landscaping project. Board members of the Rocky River Campus Foundation will be on hand to distribute information and accept donations for finishing touches, such as trees ($500), benches ($1,500) and picnic tables ($2,000).
Over the past three years, the high school has undergone major renovation, creating more of a campus-style atmosphere. However, the landscape work needed to complete the project was beyond the scope of the funds realized by the 2010 capital improvements bond issue.
“We all want a beautiful school, but the last place we want to put the citizens’ money is landscaping,” stated school board member Jay Milano, chairman of the board’s Facilities Committee. During the past year, Milano has been working with three residents, David Furry, owner of Northern Title Agency; Robert Jurs, president of GGJ Engineers; and Greg Mylett, owner of Corporate United, who created the Campus Foundation. At a recent school board meeting, Milano reported that because of the foundation’s work, about 90 percent of the landscaping work has been completed.
After meeting with the school board and administrators, foundation members determined that the entire high school site was in need of a face-lift after the years of construction traffic, and that the project could cost about $300,000. The board was able to leverage $50,000 in funds and construction credits so that the foundation could begin its work of rounding up the rest of the dollars from contributions and in-kind donations.
To put the landscaping plan in motion, the high school campus was divided into four major areas: the Arts and Sciences Courtyard, the smokestack courtyard, the Wagar Road student entrance and the Detroit Road front entrance.
At the school board’s September committee session, Milano reported that some of these areas have been completed due to the generosity of residents. He said that Mylett personally donated the funds for the entire Arts and Sciences Courtyard in memory of his father, James P. Mylett, who died earlier this year, and that real estate agent Gloria Hardington provided funding for the Wagar Road landscaping. In addition, RRHS alumnus Jim Milano, owner of Milano Monuments, donated, in memory of his sister Maria, a 7-foot granite statue of the Rocky River Pirates mascot, which will be installed on campus later in the year.
Jurs also provided the civil engineering work for the project, and his wife, Christine, served as the landscape architect.
Expressing his appreciation for the contributors, Milano commented, “We’d end up with a beautiful school and a lot of dirt without them.”
According to Furry, who performs the foundation’s fiscal duties, over $50,000 was collected during the sale of commemorative pavers, which kicked off the fundraising activities last spring. The engraved bricks form a circular installation in front of the building’s main entrance and were donated by parents, students, alumni and community members.
That still leaves the smokestack, which administrators have estimated will cost about $100,000 to demolish, partially due to expected asbestos abatement. “That’s the final pipe dream, the major ticket,” Furry stated.