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Woodridge accepts plan to rebuild, renovate schools

6/12/2014 - West Side Leader
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By Becky Tompkins

PENINSULA — The Woodridge Local School District is proceeding with a facilities plan to rebuild and renovate its current four buildings into three, all on the same campus.

Board of Education members voted unanimously at a special community forum meeting June 4 to accept the master facilities plan prepared by consultants Chuck Warner, of Warner Concepts LLC, and Chas Schreckenberger, of Braun & Steidl Architects, and presented to the board May 15.

Based on community response to surveys at two open dialogue meetings and on the district’s website, the plan calls for three schools — an elementary school for prekindergarten through fifth grade; a middle school for sixth through eighth grades; and a high school for ninth through 12th grades.

Response was nearly unanimous among those who filled out the questionnaires that they wanted this grade configuration, and they wanted the three schools to be on the same campus, where the middle and high schools currently are, on Quick Road.

Warner and Schreckenberger presented a detailed assessment of the four current schools and recommendations for what should be done with each.

The 1928 Primary School and the 1930/1952 Intermediate School are the oldest and most in need of work, they said. For both, the cost to renovate would be more than 80 percent of the cost of replacement, far exceeding the construction rule of thumb that any building requiring at least 67 percent of the rebuild cost to renovate should be built new.

Major repairs and replacement would be needed, Warner said, and “even after you do the repairs, it still won’t be efficient space.” Classrooms in 1928 were much smaller than today’s classrooms, and the walls were 18 inches thick compared to today’s 12-inch-thick walls. There is much wasted space in old buildings, he said, and they are not sufficient for today’s educational needs.

The district recently had to fix the wastewater treatment plant near the Primary School that was in danger of failing and not up to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) standards. It was able to remove the original system and connect to a nearby sewer, according to district officials.

The same serious septic problem also applies at the Intermediate School, on Bronson Road in Peninsula, but there is no sewer nearby to connect to, Schreckenberger said. The EPA has notified the Village of Peninsula it needs to spend a great deal of money to meet EPA requirements, he said.

Superintendent Walter Davis said the EPA has granted Woodridge a two-year “reprieve,” an extension on the time allowed to fix the septic problem at the Intermediate School, until the district decides what to do with the school in its facilities plan.

If the Intermediate School is closed and demolished, the septic problem would not need to be fixed, according to district officials. If the building is renovated or sold, the problem would still need fixing.

Schreckenberger pointed out that building codes are constantly changing, and meeting accessibility codes, energy codes and other codes in old buildings would be a large expense. The buildings would need new heating, ventilation and air conditioning equipment; windows; insulation; and more, he said.

Davis said with renovating, “It would cost a fortune to bring the buildings up to code, but the structure inside would be the same — it limits what we can do educationally. The music class would still be in a windowless room on the lower level” of the Intermediate School.

The master plan’s recommendations, which closely mirror the results of the votes of community members who responded, include building a new elementary school on the same Quick Road campus, renovating the Middle School — including a new roof to replace the one that has already leaked — and renovating the high school and adding on to it for needed space.

The June 4 meeting was scheduled to get more community feedback on the plan, but only a small group turned out. Board member Tammy Heffernan expressed disappointment the high school library wasn’t filled.

“Then people say they didn’t know” about the plans, she said.

Davis agreed that “people have a responsibility to remain informed” and noted the district distributed information through meetings, the website and the news media. He urged the board to move forward, because “we’re going to pay one way or the other. We will have to do a lot of repairs if the [two buildings] are not replaced.”

Urged on by the small but persuasive audience, the board members voted unanimously to accept the plan and asked Treasurer Deanna Levenger to look into what needs to be done to put a bond issue to pay for the work on the November ballot. The plan as accepted would cost around $33 million, which is Woodridge’s debt limit for a bond issue, Levenger said.

The board also approved, as urgent necessity, buying three school buses. Two of the district’s older buses recently did not pass inspection by the Ohio State Highway Patrol, and they had already been planning to purchase five new ones, Levenger said.

These three buses are available for purchase now, Davis said, and the usual three-reading process to approve the purchase would take too long to have the buses for the start of school in August. They will not use the two buses that did not pass inspection anymore, he said, but will sell them for scrap.

The board’s next regular meeting is scheduled for June 17 at 6 p.m. in the Woodridge High School Library, 4440 Quick Road.

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