Delaware City School District officials plan to mark a milestone mid-year when a years-long, multimillion-dollar project to improve the district's buildings wraps up.

Delaware City School District officials plan to mark a milestone mid-year when a years-long, multimillion-dollar project to improve the district's buildings wraps up.

Superintendent Paul Craft said the ongoing $50 million effort to renovate and expand the district's facilities has gone "remarkably well." He said the goal is to have remaining work completed by the start of the 2017-18 school year.

"We're going to have done everything we promised to do on time and on budget," he said.

Craft said the most-visible and work-intensive change to the district has been the construction of a new academic wing at Hayes High School.

"It's going to be a pretty major change for the building with ... labs that hadn't been updated since the 1960s," he said.

After spring break, workers will focus on renovating and reconfiguring existing classrooms, expanding the cafeteria and improving locker rooms that have not seen major improvements in decades.

"There's still a long way to go at the high school," he said. "That's the flagship. That's the biggest of all the additions we're doing."

Craft said projects at Smith and Woodward elementary schools also are "progressing really, really well."

Work at Carlisle and Conger elementary schools, as well as Dempsey Middle School, wrapped near the start of the 2016-17 school year.

Craft said the completion of the expansion effort will give district officials space to play with at the former Willis Intermediate School building, now known as the Willis Education Center.

He said the United Way of Delaware County and its family-focused partner agencies could use portions of the building for meeting and office space.

"We'll work that out over the next few months," he said. "That's pretty exciting."

Craft said the city of Delaware also has been looking to partner with the district by potentially establishing an entrepreneurial center at Willis.

Delaware City Manager Tom Homan said he hopes the city and district can reach an agreement on moving the center forward at some point this year.

"We really need to get that project underway in 2017," Homan said of the center, which city officials view as a place where business owners can learn, work and share resources.

Craft said bringing business, city and other local officials into Willis could lead to many positive outcomes for district students -- from internships to work experience.

"That gives us partnership opportunities for our kids," he said.

The Delaware City School District paid for its expansion project with bond funding approved by voters in 2013. District voters last saw a ballot issue in March 2016, when they approved a substitute levy, which did not raise taxes but allowed the district to collect additional revenue when new development occurs in the district.

Craft said the state of Ohio's cap on funding to wealthier, growing districts likely will lead to the district proposing a new ballot issue in 2017. He said the district's school board declined in 2016 to put a new levy before voters in May.

"They decided by not taking action that we're going to wait until November, but we're going to have to be back out in front of our voters," he said.

Craft said it's "too early to tell" what the levy attempt in November could look like. He said he likely will recommend a five-year request, which would allow voters to approve funding in the short term while waiting to see if the state removes the caps on funding for growing districts over the next half-decade.

tgallick@thisweeknews.com

@TWGallick