West Side News

Harmon Elementary update

School board OKs land swap with county


The South-Western City Schools Board of Education gave its approval to a land swap agreement with the Franklin County Commissioners Monday night, Feb. 11.

The commissioners were scheduled to vote on the agreement Tuesday morning.

Under the agreement, the school district would receive a 16-acre portion of about 79 acres the county owns at the intersection of Frank and Gantz roads. The property would be the site for the new Harmon Elementary school building.

The county property is about one mile from the current Harmon Elementary site.

In exchange, the county would receive the existing Harmon Elementary building and about 11 surrounding acres.

Harmon is one of four new elementary school buildings the district plans to begin constructing this summer as the first phase of its school facilities project. The new school would open in September 2014.

The project ultimately will result in 13 new elementary buildings, two renovated elementary schools and a new Franklin Heights High School.

The project is being funded by a combination of the $148 million bond issue voters approved last March and $120 million in state money.

The agreement "is a win-win for both sides," said South-Western Superintendent Bill Wise.

The district approached the county to gauge its interest in a possible agreement after it was determined that the current Harmon site did not provide sufficient space for a plan to use it as a "swing site" during a later phase of the facilities project, Wise said.

"It was our idea," he said.

The original plan was for the new Harmon school to be constructed adjacent to the old building. After Harmon students moved into the new building, students from another school would temporarily move into the old Harmon building while their new school was under construction, Wise said.

"We decided that operating two buildings with all the students and the Frank Road traffic was not appropriate," he said. "This arrangement will allow us to do a better job of constructing a new facility and making sure we do it in a safe way."

The district will be able to continue to use the current Harmon building through the end of the 2015-2016 school year. It will be responsible for paying for the relocation of two county-owned community gardens that are now on the future Harmon site.

The county property includes a wetlands that will be near to the new Harmon school and will be able to serve as an educational resource for students to learn about environmental issues, Wise said.

No money is being exchang-ed for either property, he said.

"This is a good example of how two agencies can work together and come up with an agreement that's in the best interest of our children and the community," Wise said.