Renovations planned for a portion of the old Whitehall-Yearling High School have begun, with both Ruscilli Construction and Schorr Architects on board.

Renovations planned for a portion of the old Whitehall-Yearling High School have begun, with both Ruscilli Construction and Schorr Architects on board.

Following an abrupt turn in June by Whitehall school board members, Ruscilli project director Craig Kertesz has laid out plans to provide the district with the needed renovations to get the old facility up and running by fall 2013, when the new high school is set to open.

"I feel fairly confident you will have all this bought at a minimum and it all done before school starts," Kertesz told board members last month. "Right now, we are ready to get you a usable building. We'll get it open. We heard you."

After hearing in June from architectural and construction representatives that the remaining part of the old high school could open for use in 2013 but would not be in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act until a year after the new high school's completion, board members decided to shift renovation dollars in an effort to bring the building up to compliance.

Kertesz said he had been under the impression that board members were anxious to have the exterior of the old building match the exterior of the new building and that he would focus on the interior when monies became available.

In response to concerns from board members, Kertesz returned last month with a newly prioritized list of renovations that would allow for the old gym, auxiliary gym and auditorium to open in compliance with ADA laws while holding off on more aesthetic changes to the building's exterior.

"My concern was to make (the old building) operational and ready to go," Ronda Howard, the board's vice president, told Kertesz.

During what Kertesz is calling Phase I of the project, construction workers will renovate some exterior walls of the old structure, replace the roof and some door frames, add ADA-compliant ramps where needed and make bathrooms handicap accessible, clean the exterior brick, update electrical systems and add air conditioning to the auditorium.

The upgrades will cost the district about $1.78 million.

During Phase II of the project, which will begin when funds are available, construction workers will upgrade the exterior, add some metal panel walls, new windows, a curtain wall entry, new gutters, downspouts and eaves, and open up the gym windows to add more natural light.

Phase II of the project will cost approximately $547,000.

The Whitehall City School District's $78 million construction project to replace all five of the district's schools is expected to come in under budget, allowing for the renovations, Superintendent Judyth Dobbert-Meloy said.

Although state and tax dollars are paying for the project itself, those same tax dollars must not be used, by law, for the renovations to the old structure.

Instead, the district will rely on interest income earned on the state dollars and its portion of the total savings to fund the renovations.

Dobbert-Meloy said district planners predict the project should come in under budget by more than $5.5 million. The district will be able to keep a little more than $2 million of the total savings, which represents the 40 percent that community residents approved for the project through tax dollars. The Ohio Schools Facilities Commission is paying for the other 60 percent of the project and will take back its portion of the savings.

With some $1.7 million in interest income the district will receive from investments on the original $78 million, Whitehall will have nearly $4 million to spend on capital improvements -- specifically, upgrading the old structure.

The interest money will be available almost immediately, but the remainder will not be freed up by the state until 11 months after the completion of the project, in July 2013.

Because the construction market still is leaning in the owner's favor, Kertesz said, some of the items listed in Phase II might be completed in Phase I.

Board members have approved both Ruscilli Construction and Schorr Architects to lead in the old structure's renovations, in a move advised by district lawyers because the renovations were not part of the project's original plan.

"It makes perfect sense," Dobbert-Meloy said. "They are already here and should continue on."