Community members packed Johnstown Village Council chambers Jan. 15 to have their say about future school facilities and what they would support if an issue were placed on the May ballot.
A recommendation will be presented to the Johnstown-Monroe Board of Education by a community-based group during a special board meeting at 6:30 p.m. Monday, Jan. 27, in the Johnstown High School library, 401 S. Oregon St.
As of October 2013, all school buildings were considered overcrowded. The schools' capacities and enrollments are: Johnstown High School, 370 capacity, with 493 students enrolled; Adams Middle School, 233 capacity, 349 students; Searfoss Elementary School, 197, with 356 students; and Oregon Elementary School, 207, with 349 students.
The district owns land where new facilities could be constructed behind the existing high school/Searfoss and in Leafy Dell, where the district owns about 11 acres.
Jay Hazelbaker, a volunteer with the facilities discussion group, said he was thrilled with all of those who attended last week's meeting because it showed they care.
"It's easy to get very passionate about this," he said. "You want the best for your kids."
He said residents need to consider facilities practically, however, thinking about what the community would support at the polls.
Facility group volunteer Dustin Calhoun said the best plan is what could be approved by the community.
A variety of scenarios were outlined during the meeting, and attendees were asked to mark on a piece of paper which plan they would support.
Each school district is provided an equity ranking that is determined by the Ohio Department of Education, based on average per-pupil valuation. Currently, Johnstown-Monroe would need to raise 71 percent of total costs locally, with the state contributing 29 percent for a shared building project.
The most popular option at the meeting was a shared project with the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission for a new K-5 building in Leafy Dell and a new 6-12 building behind the high school.
Seventy-one percent -- $35.48 million -- of the project cost would have to be raised locally, with the state picking up the other 29 percent of the total $49.97 million project. The cost to district voters would be an additional $21.79 per month per $100,000 of assessed property value, or $261.48 per year.
The second-most popular option was a shared project with the OFCC on a K-5 building at Leafy Dell, a new 9-12 building and partially renovating the high school for middle school use. The renovation would need to be all locally funded. This option would cost an additional $19.97 a month per $100,000, or $239.64 per year.
Although it's only a $1.82 difference per month between two options, Calhoun said, that adds up over years.
"We want to be careful of discrediting because it's a couple of dollars," he said. "A couple dollars means something different to me than Jay and the community. We have to think about what the community will support. If we go with (all new schools), we have to educate why it makes sense over keeping the high school."
A third option, receiving the least votes, involved the building of one new K-6 building, repurposing Searfoss and leaving the high school as it is.
Hazelbaker said any joint project with the OFCC automatically would include 0.5 mill for facility maintenance.
If a bond issue would be approved by voters in May, Calhoun said, a building project could begin in July, with total completion taking about three years.
Paul Garland, a 14-year Johnstown resident with a sixth- and ninth-grader in the schools, is director of Columbus-based Legat & Kingscott Architects. He provided his expertise in architectural knowledge of school design and construction during the meeting as a facilities group volunteer. His employer is also under contract with the Johnstown schools.
Garland said any new school facility is built for a 40-year life span. He said the brick and mortar at the existing high school is structurally sound, but the guts are the problem.
"The shell could last another 30 or 40 years," he said.
If the high school would be taken down, Garland said, the library, band room and performing-arts center would remain.
Nine-year Johnstown resident Nathan Stein said he supports all new schools.
"It's overdue," he said. "I have three kids in elementary. I would have supported this five years ago."
He said it's too late for his children to benefit from a new elementary, but a new high school facility could help give them the tools they need to be successful in the future.
Patrick Gibson, an eight-year Johnstown resident, said some things are needed with the schools, but he isn't sure what the community might support.
"We need new schools," he said.
Johnstown-Monroe leaders began discussions with the Ohio School Facilities Commission about the possibility of new or renovated school facilities in 2000.
The OSFC is a state agency that began in 1997 and is responsible for the administration of the state's school construction and renovation program. It has worked with nearly two-thirds of the state's 600-plus school districts and has opened more than 1,000 new or renovated facilities.
On Sept. 10, 2012, the commission was consolidated with the Office of the State Architect to form the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission. The OSFC continues to exist as a separate commission within the new agency, focusing on funding Ohio's comprehensive K-12 school construction program.
Complete presentations from three community meetings by the Johnstown facilities group are online at johnstownohioschools.com.