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Woodridge studying future of school buildings

4/17/2014 - West Side Leader
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By Becky Tompkins

PENINSULA — Several of the schools in the Woodridge Local School District are in need of major renovation or actual rebuilding, and the district is studying the needs, community desires and how to pay for the work.

From a survey conducted online and at a community dialogue held Feb. 13, the Facility Planning Committee determined that most of the respondents said they would prefer to have three school buildings instead of the current four. The three would be an elementary school for prekindergarten through fifth grades, a middle school for sixth through eighth grades and a high school for ninth through 12th grades.

A second community dialogue was held at the high school April 10 to make the goals more specific en route to a master plan to take to the school board.

Facilitating the research and planning are Chuck Warner, of Warner Concepts LLC, an educational consulting firm; and Chas Schreckenberger, an architect with Braun & Steidl.

Warner Concepts officials presented their research findings that enrollment is projected to increase by about 200 in the next 10 years, or about 20 students per year spread out over 13 grades. This would bring prekindergarten through fifth-grade enrollment to 826, middle school to 534 and high school to 907, for a total of 2,267 in 2023-24.

Their research lists the current Woodridge Primary School (preschool through second grade) as 86 years old, Woodridge Intermediate School (third through fifth grades) as 84 years old, Woodridge Middle School (sixth through eighth grades) as 18 years old and Woodridge High School (ninth through 12th grades) as 53 years old. All but the Middle School have had additions through the years, Warner said.

A team of facility professionals, architects and engineers toured all the buildings, he said, to assess the costs of renovating and of building new schools.

Older buildings tend to continue to need more upgrading even after renovation, he said, and as a result, school building planners follow the “two-thirds rule” used by the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission: If renovating would cost more than 67 percent of the cost of building new, the experts recommend constructing a new building.

In addition to better educational efficiency in new buildings, the new technology and equipment used in new buildings would help lower energy costs, Warner said.

The Primary and Intermediate schools and, to a lesser extent, the high school, would need major renovating to bring them up to the educational and programming needs of their students, Warner said.

Warner and Schreckenberger and their teams assessed all of the buildings and the costs of renovating them compared to building new as 80 percent for the Primary School, 87 percent for the Intermediate, 32 percent for the Middle School and 60 percent for the high school. The two elementary buildings clearly exceed the two-thirds rule, Warner said, with the high school not far from 67 percent.

Woodridge would need to pass a levy to pay for the renovating and/or building project. Warner said the district has a voted debt limit of $33 million, the maximum amount of money it can borrow or bond for construction.

He presented a chart at the community meeting showing the amount a homeowner’s taxes would increase for different size levies. For the maximum amount, $33 million, the owner of a house with a market value of $100,000 would pay an additional $135 per year, he said.

Based on all their findings, the consultants presented three options for the community’s consideration. The first would build a new elementary school and renovate the middle and high schools. The second would build a new elementary school, renovate the middle school and renovate and add on to the high school. The third option would be to renovate all the schools.

The first two options would cost $32 million to $33 million each. The renovation option would cost between $32 million and $44 million, depending on final decisions on which needs to meet, Warner said.

The 60 to 70 people at the second community dialogue were divided into eight groups. All eight chose the second option, to build a new elementary, renovate the middle school and add on to and renovate the rest of the high school. All of the groups agreed the most pressing priority was a new elementary building.

Another survey question asked whether the respondents would support a levy for the work and, if so, how large. The majority in all of the groups at the meeting voted in favor of a levy, up to $33 million. Those not at the meeting were able to vote online for five more days after the meeting.

Warner said the Facility Planning Committee will finalize the survey results into a recommendation to be presented to the Board of Education at its May 13 meeting, its next scheduled meeting. It will be held at 6 p.m. in the library of Woodridge High School, located at 4440 Quick Road.

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