Last summer, the South-Western City School District was completing the final phase of its Ohio Facilities Construction Commission project.

With all 13 new elementary schools open, as well as the new Franklin Heights High School building, and two other elementary schools renovated, the district is now able to concentrate its attention on capital-improvement projects at other buildings, said Mark Waller, property-services coordinator.

"We're able to address some needed projects at the other buildings we wouldn't be able to do if we still had the old elementary schools on the table," he said.

That's an added dividend from the OFCC project, Waller said.

Priority projects

The district budgets about $1 million each year for capital improvements, Waller said.

"We sit down at the beginning of the year and look at the repairs we need to make and create a list based on priorities," Waller said.

A priority is placed on projects that have a potential impact on the safety of students and staff, he said.

"Those are the ones we'll move up to the top of the list," Waller said, adding that most of the repair work is completed during the summer.

Major projects for this summer have included replacing the water coolers at Grove City and Westland high schools and at Norton, Finland, Brookpark and Prairie View middle schools.

"Some of these are original to the buildings and were installed as far back as 1964 or 1972," Waller said. "There were different standards in those days for using lead solder in copper piping."

The new coolers will follow the guidelines that are in place now for copper piping, he said.

The district also is replacing the cylinders on the original door locks at Grove City and Westland high schools.

"They were getting old and the mechanisms were beginning to fail," Waller said. "We're putting in new locks on about 300 doors at each school."

Concrete repairs also are planned at Grove City and Westland high schools, Brookpark and Norton middle schools and Prairie Norton Elementary School.

The life expectancy for concrete can vary, depending on the amount of traffic it bears and how much salt is applied to the surface during winters.

The milder the winter, the less salt that needs to be put down and the less erosion that occurs, Waller said.

"We've been fortunate the past few winters not to have to use as much salt as usual," he said.

Later this year, the district will replace scoreboards at some of middle and high school buildings, Waller said.

"Some of the scoreboards are getting close to 50 years old," he said. "We have issues that arise where we have to transport a controller from one site to be used at another."

It is still to be determined how many scoreboards will be replaced this year, Waller said.

"That will depend on the cost of the bids we receive," he said.

Other projects for 2017 include installing new siding to the Stiles Family Resource Center; replacing the carpet in the main office lobby and hallways at Jackson Middle School, Franklin Woods, Galloway Ridge, Holt Crossing and Park Street intermediate schools and at the Head Start office; paving at the Franklin Heights stadium, Finland Middle School's south lot, Jackson Middle School parking lot and the Central Crossing High School baseball path; replacing a boiler at the South-Western Career Academy; and completing the installation of playground equipment at 12 elementary buildings.

Facilities serve many

It's not only students and staff who use South-Western's school buildings and facilities; a number of groups from outside the school district use them as well.

"We have a board policy in place that sets up how we decide on making school facilities available for groups to use and the fee structure we will charge," said Monte Detterman, the district's director of business services.

In cases of conflicting requests, "our first priority is always for a use that is directly related to district activities," Detterman said.

This category includes events related to school clubs and sports teams, teacher activities, PTA events, educational or curriculum programs, booster group gatherings, Boy and Girl Scout meetings and competitions in school-sponsored activities.

The next priority is given to nonprofit athletics groups, including the Grove City Kids Association and Grove City Parks and Recreation programs.

"The GCKA is probably the group that uses our facilities most often," Detterman said.

Governmental agencies, including the Ohio Department of Education, armed forces, police and fire departments and local townships, also are given a high priority, he said.

"We'll have the fire department sometimes use our buildings at night or during other off hours for training sessions," Detterman said.

General nonprofit groups, including civic organizations and churches, are also able to apply to use school facilities.

Three churches hold services and other activities at South-Western schools. New Life Baptist Church meets at Monterey Elementary School, Maranatha Tabernacle at Norton Middle School and Crossover Church at Jackson Middle School.

New Life has been holding its Sunday morning and evening services and children's Sunday school classes at Monterey for about two and a half years, said the Rev. Mike Purdon.

The church, which organized nearly five years ago, met previously at the Elks Lodge and at the Urbancrest YMCA.

"We heard that other churches were meeting at schools and we decided to look into it ourselves," Purdon said. "It's worked out really well for us.

"I think people are familiar with the school -- some of our members are able to walk to our services -- and they feel comfortable and safe there," he said.

Services are held in Monterey's cafeteria and youngsters meet in the school's gymnasium.

"The school offers plenty of room for us," Purdon said. "It's also just easier to hold children's activities in a facility that's built for kids."

New Life has more than 130 regular members, he said, although services can bring as many as 170 people.

South-Western charges no fees for school-related groups and government entities using its facilities, Detterman said.

Nonprofit youth athletics groups are charged $5 per hour, nonprofit groups $30 per hour and for-profit groups a $100 hourly fee.

"This isn't a profit-making venture for us at all," Detterman said. "We're simply looking to recoup any expense we might incur.

"We believe the school district is part of the community and we want to offer our facilities as resources for the community," he said.

The district adds a custodial fee of $31 per hour on Saturdays and a $41 hourly custodial fee on Sundays, Detterman said. No custodial fees are added to the base fee between 6:30 and 10 p.m. on weekdays.