The Upper Arlington school district has embarked on a $624,700 remodeling project to add professional development space, a new break area and two new restrooms at 2020 Builder's Place.

The Upper Arlington school district has embarked on a $624,700 remodeling project to add professional development space, a new break area and two new restrooms at 2020 Builder's Place.

The building houses the district's operations department office and warehouse.

The contract with the R. W. Setterlin Building Co. also includes new lighting, heating and minor plumbing renovations in the existing warehouse space.

The work started in late August and is expected to be finished by Dec. 1.

Chris Potts, executive director of business services, said the remodeling work "really ties back in to our overall focus on efficiency and productivity."

"The revenue generated by the sale of our old operations facility in Grandview provided the funds for the district to purchase this larger facility (Builders Place)," he said.

"This project will allow us to free up more educational space by consolidating some of our non-teaching staff members currently housed in schools."

He said the district had set aside $450,000 for the remodeling project. The rest of the money is coming from the district's capital improvement funds.

School board members authorized the purchase of 2020 Builders Place last spring for $1.23 million, using revenue from the sale of the district's former maintenance facility at 925 Burrell Ave., in Grandview Heights. The sale of that building brought in $1,408,000 at a public auction.

Builders Place sits on 6.5 acres, has 19,000 square feet of warehouse space and more than 10,000 square feet of office space, along with secured outdoor storage.

Potts said the remodeled areas of the building will allow the district to hold teacher-training workshops and to house the technology and teaching and learning departments, which will free up space in school buildings.

"The new space will provide a more conducive space for the district's growing technology needs and provide a space for professional development without tying up space that could otherwise by used for classes and student groups," he said.

Facilities review

School board members recently requested a facilities review from the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission (OFCC), which Potts said is a free service.

"We decided to pursue this based upon the advice of our efficiency work team," he said. "This is a group of business professionals who have volunteered their time to delve into the district's finances to help us identify additional efficiency measures."

He said a recent report from the work team identified aging facilities as a "major threat" to the district's financial health. The team also recommended the creation of a master facilities plan.

The OFCC review "will provide an in-depth assessment of the structures, educational environment, mechanical systems, technology, accessibility and security of our facilities," Potts said. "We feel this will be extremely valuable foundational information as we move ahead with our strategic planning process."

He said the average age of the district's buildings is about 58 years old.

Superintendent Paul Imhoff said the strategic planning process has now encompassed the district's efficiency project, an effort began before voters approved a 4-mill operating levy in November 2013. The goal of that project was to reduce district operating costs by a cumulative amount of $4.5 million by the end of the 2016-17 school year.

Imhoff and district leaders are working with 15 residents who have been appointed to work teams to create a new strategic plan and to study and reduce expenditures.

Representatives from Battelle For Kids are collaborating in the planning process, Imhoff said.

He said a new strategic plan is expected to be complete before the end of the year.