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Highland moving ahead with plans for athletic complex

12/19/2013 - West Side Leader
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By Scott Kriska

The Highland Board of Education agreed to get the ball rolling on a proposed athletic complex at the Dec. 16 meeting.

Members unanimously approved a contract with the Akron-based architectural firm Mann Architects for the design of the complex in an amount not to exceed 6.5 percent of the total project cost.

Superintendent Catherine Aukerman said the board has been working on this idea for the past few years, particularly a new football stadium. She said in May 2012, the board hired Mann Architects for the proposed project. She said in fall 2012, the board and the architectural firm made on-site visits to other school athletic facilities in Northeast Ohio.

Aukerman also said three conceptual drawings of the complex, which she showed to the public at the meeting, were made in October 2012. She said the new facilities will consist of a new football stadium, additional parking, a tennis complex and an eight-lane running track.

According to Aukerman, the complex will be a public/private project that will cost $7 million to $8 million, a price range consistent with other school athletic facilities in the area.

Board Vice President Robert Kelly emphasized the district will only use state sales tax dollars and fundraising money to build these new facilities and said operating dollars will not be affected. He also said the Highland Facilities Organization is ready to start the fundraising process for this project. He said the football stadium has served the district well for 50 years, but the time has come to develop an athletic complex, adding that when the old stadium was built, the enrollment was a third of what it is now.

Granger Township resident Brian Skidmore said this project will add value to the district and the community, since families decide whether or not to enroll their children in the district based partly on the quality of the district’s facilities.

Aukerman stated that in future years, following the completion of the complex, the district may possibly add new baseball and softball fields that were not part of the original project. She said the board is now focused on looking at the district’s immediate needs, such as a new football stadium, additional parking and a tennis complex.

When asked by a resident about other capital improvements in the district, Aukerman said the three elementary school buildings need to be addressed at some point. She said reconstructing the buildings would cost $16 million per building and would take 16 years to have funds from sales taxes for just one of the three needed buildings.

In other business:

  • Board President Dr. Norman Christopher acknowledged the support of the district’s students, staff and parents during this year’s football season and expressed his thanks to Hornets football coach Tom Lombardo for an exciting season.
  • The board appointed board member Mike Houska to serve as the Medina County Career Center representative for the district.
  • The board appointed Christopher as president pro tempore to preside over the board’s organizational meeting Jan. 13.
  • The board approved bus specifications and the authorization to accept bids for new buses. Supervisor of Operations James Reusch explained the life of a bus is 10 years, and the district currently has five buses more than 15 years old.

Also at the meeting, the board approved the following items:

√ various new and revised policies;

√ donations to Highland High School’s Speech and Debate Team, Hinckley Elementary School, Highland Middle School’s National Junior Honor Society and the district;

√ the use of Highland High School facilities and waiver of fees for various functions; and

√ various personnel items.

The next Highland Board of Education meeting is scheduled for Jan. 13 at 7 p.m. in the Media Center at Highland High School, 4150 Ridge Road.

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