The Grandview Heights Board of Education has directed Superintendent Ed O'Reilly to have an architect study a proposed plan to build a preschool addition at Stevenson Elementary and review the recommended location at Stevenson for the addition.

The Grandview Heights Board of Education has directed Superintendent Ed O'Reilly to have an architect study a proposed plan to build a preschool addition at Stevenson Elementary and review the recommended location at Stevenson for the addition.

The board discussed the proposed preschool project Saturday at its annual work session.

The board approve a resolution O'Reilly presented to select MKC Associates, Inc., as the design firm for the proposed project. The resolution authorizes the district to begin negotiations with the firm.

The resolution does not mean the project will definitely go forward or obligate the district to proceed with the project. The board must still give its final approval of the project before the preschool addition would be built.

Following an evaluation of the eight firms that applied, MKC was determined to be the most qualified to provide the design services, O'Reilly said. The company finished ahead of McDonald, Cassell and Bassett, Inc., and Abbott Studios.

Last fall, O'Reilly proposed the district build a 2,000-square-foot addition at Stevenson to house the preschool program for special needs students. The addition would include a classroom, sensory room and a small group instruction room.

The special needs preschool classroom is currently located in the sixth-grade hallway at Edison Intermediate/Middle School.

The proposed project would build the preschool addition in the Stevenson courtyard area facing First Avenue.

Moving the classroom to the elementary school would place the students in a more age-appropriate setting and provide them with more opportunities for peer models and exposure to regular classrooms, O'Reilly said.

The project's cost has been estimated at $421,175.

Most of the project would be paid for using $285,931 in IDEA federal stimulus money that has been awarded to the district. IDEA funds are dedicated to special needs students .

The district would also use $70,000 carried over from the fund set up for projects that would have been needed under the now-defunct Jarod's Law.

A total of $65,243 in district funds would provide the remaining 15.5 percent of the project's estimated cost.

"We have not spent a dollar on this project yet, we have only spent time," O'Reilly said.

The Educational Service Center of Central Ohio operates the special needs preschool class and contracts with the district to hold the class at Edison.

This year, five Grandview students are enrolled in the class, along with students from other communities, O'Reilly said. The program is for students ages 3-5.

Saturday's work session was the first time new board member Grant Douglass and Katie Clifford were able to give their input about the proposed project.

Douglass asked whether there was any square footage in the district that could be adapted for use as space for the preschool class.

"There is square footage that could be (reconstructed) but not at the elementary," O'Reilly said.

"Have we explored all our options (and so can say) this is our only option?" Douglass asked.

"We're looking at it through the eyes of educators," O'Reilly said.

Douglass suggested that the firm the district used to evaluate the project may not have done a complete study of the proposed project, but instead may have just given "lip service to you" in approving of the proposed location at Stevenson for the addition.

Her main concern, Clifford said, is whether the project's cost could be reduced, perhaps by building the addition onto another portion of Stevenson and whether there was a way the funds could be spent to serve other students as well.

Would building the addition with federal funds earmarked for special needs students mean the district would have to perpetually use the space for the preschool program? Douglass asked.

O'Reilly said he has not seen anything that definitively states whether or not the space could someday be used for other purposes. He said he would look into that issue.

Douglass also said he would like the district to try to see if the entire project could be funded using just the federal stimulus and Jarod's Law money "so we aren't using district dollars for it."

Clifford suggested the district look for an architect in the community who would be willing to review the project at no cost.