What options for facilities should be studied, how should they be funded and what's the best way to inform the community about them?

What options for facilities should be studied, how should they be funded and what's the best way to inform the community about them?

Those were three questions posed to about 60 participants at Tuesday's community forum at Northridge High School.

Superintendent John Shepard said the Oct. 27 meeting began the community process to discuss options for the district's master facility plan.

"It's no small undertaking," he said.

An approximately 30-member steering committee is helping guide the process. Members include Shepard, treasurer Felicia Drummey, two school board members, district principals, staff, parents, citizens and representatives of the business community, Ohio School Facilities Commission (OSFC), Ruscilli Construction and Joseph Baker Associates (JBA) Architects.

Board member Brent Garee said the forum's purpose was all about gathering information and seeking direction in how the community wants to proceed with facilities.

The board of education must decide in January whether to place a tax issue on the May 4 ballot.

Community member Sherry Phillips, who lives near Homer, said the district will be challenged to pass any type of levy, whether it's a traditional income tax, earned income tax or property tax.

"The district needs to create good will between the community and the schools," she said. "The parents want it to work. The school district has to work to change attitudes."

Shepard said the district owns 56 acres at the main campus, where the high school, middle school and intermediate schools are located. There's enough land at that location to build another school.

The district also owns 2.6 acres in Homer and a little less than six acres in Alexandria.

Shepard said there's a 10-acre minimum for a building according to OSFC standards, but waivers are available to deviate from that minimum.

Drummey said set-up fees for the modulars that make up the intermediate school cost the district just over $400,000. Those are leased for about $10,000 a month, she said.

"We have an option to renew a 48-month lease," Drummey said. "We have an option for the fifth year, but we would have to renegotiate the contract."

If the district participates in an OSFC project, the local share for a building project would be 69 percent while the state would pay 31 percent. The OSFC does not co-fund purchase of land, off-site utility costs, bus garages, district administrative facilities or stadiums.

Brian Koker, of JBA, said a 2007 assessment of Northridge Primary School (formerly Alexandria Elementary) recommended a new membrane roof be installed over the entire facility. Other recommendations include a new HVAC system with air conditioning per the Ohio School Design Manual.

It was also suggested the primary school make many other improvements including new gym lighting, complete replacement of emergency/egress lighting system, replacement of gym equipment and flooring, kitchen equipment, toilet partitions and new security and exterior lighting.

The OSFC 2007 assessment of the middle school and high school also recommended many replacement items.

Among other items at the middle and high schools, it has been suggested that a new roof be installed over the entire facility. A new security system is recommended at the middle school, while the high school system needs additional security components at exterior doors.

David Conley, of Robert W. Baird and Co., said the community needs to decide how much it wants to spend on facilities and what type of tax would be supported.

"If you have a large community of people 65 and over, they're not fond of a traditional income tax," he said. "You have a fair number of residents 65 and over, approaching 30 percent. The vast majority of residents don't have children in schools."

The Northridge district's existing 1 percent income tax expires next year. It is currently used for operations.

"If you choose an income tax, it could be for building and operational," Conley said.

Garee said costs for new facilities versus repair at existing ones will be detailed at the next community forum.

More about the community forum can be found on the district's web site at www.northridge.k12.oh.us.

The next community forum will be held at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 5.