The Johnstown-Monroe Board of Education got a look Nov. 21 at an architect's assessment of the district's permanent improvement needs and recommendations for the most effective way to meet those needs.

The Johnstown-Monroe Board of Education got a look Nov. 21 at an architect's assessment of the district's permanent improvement needs and recommendations for the most effective way to meet those needs.

Tony Schorr, of Schorr Architects, Inc., in Dublin, presented the assessment the board had commissioned.

Superintendent Damien Bawn said this assessment differs from the Ohio School Facilities Commission assessments (OSFC) previously conducted, in that it looks at improvements needed to maintain existing structures over a 20-25 year period. The OSFC assessment is geared toward accomplishing all upgrades and replacements at once.

Bawn said this assessment was not a recommendation so much as a list of projected maintenance, major repairs and replacement items - capital improvements - that would need to be done through the next 20 years. The projects ultimately would be required to maintain the integrity of existing facilities at their present size and current educational value.

The assessment report is arranged by category and priority, a timeline, funding and specific approaches for accomplishing major maintenance and systems replacements. That differs from replacing facilities through district effort or an OSFC share-funded project, if offered.

It will ultimately be up to the board to decide, however, Bawn said. Board members and a facilities advisory group will use the results of the Schorr group's assessment, along with prior information from OSFC and other sources, to help guide that study and decision-making process.

"The bottom line is, our buildings are getting old," said board president John Davis. "We've been good stewards of our buildings," but they're aging nonetheless. They are also badly crowded, Schorr indicated, with all district buildings over capacity by 50 to 70 percent, based on today's standards.

Davis said Schorr's presentation was timed well, since three new members are coming on the board Jan. 1. The presentation gave them an overview of the types of decisions that will need to be made in the near future.

"We're going to have to do something" in the next five years or so, Davis said, recalling discussion from 2001 about how to handle the district's aging facilities.

"We're still going down that road," he said.

Most of the district's buildings would need a lot of work to bring them up to the specifications of a new facility, Davis said, and assessment of the OSFC is that most buildings ought to be replaced rather than updated.

"It's probably more cost-effective to build new," David said. He said Schorr noted this is a very cost-effective time to build, because contractors are hungry for work and in many cases bids are coming in surprisingly low.

"But it's a tough time to ask the voters for money," he said. "The community has always supported the schools, it's just a tough time."

Eventually, though, the voters will have to be asked, Davis said.