Now that a master plan for upgrading facilities is in place, Upper Arlington school officials will assemble a Financial Advisory Board of community members next month to help determine the size of a bond issue to fund the work.

Now that a master plan for upgrading facilities is in place, Upper Arlington school officials will assemble a Financial Advisory Board of community members next month to help determine the size of a bond issue to fund the work.

The Upper Arlington Board of Education agreed unanimously Dec. 13 to approve Superintendent Paul Imhoff's recommendations for updating and expanding the district's nine school buildings.

"The approval of the master plan is significant because it represents the culmination of months and months of work by our hundreds of community volunteers," Imhoff said. "We look forward to working with our volunteers and the community as a whole during the final phase of the master planning process, which will begin in January and last through May."

Imhoff recommended in October that the district move forward with up to $309 million in improvements; officials then took an additional two months to collect community feedback on the plan.

Now that most needs and upgrades have been identified -- the district still is collecting public input on two plans for improving Upper Arlington High School -- "local experts" will be asked to help determine what projects should begin within the next few years, and what others could wait.

The Financial Advisory Board will be made up of community volunteers with experience in financial management or managing businesses "that have undertaken sizable facilities and construction projects," a district press release said last week.

It will be charged with reviewing future operating needs, the scope and cost of the master plan and the funding and phasing of that plan so the district can place a bond issue on the November 2017 ballot.

"This is not going to happen all at once," Imhoff said of the building work. "A master plan is something that's meant to be done over time, and this will be done over time. We simply cannot do the work all at once."

In October, Imhoff recommended rebuilding three of the five elementary schools: Greensview ($22.6 million), Wickliffe ($23.8 million) and Windermere ($22.2 million). Two others, Tremont ($14.9 million) and Barrington ($31 million), would be renovated.

The Barrington work is estimated to cost so much more, according to Chief Operating Officer Chris Potts, because the building needs to be a lot bigger than the others. Its enrollment is projected to grow from 760 to more than 850 students by the 2025-26 school year.

The middle schools, Hastings ($27.7 million) and Jones ($18.2 million), and the Burbank Early Childhood School ($7.3 million) would undergo repairs and gain space for additional students.

A new four-story high school would be constructed adjacent to the current two-story building so that students could continue to attend during construction. Imhoff recommended two four-story options. One would cost $137 million and the other $142 million. He said the district won't settle on one until the public weighs in.

Officials decided not to acquire land for the proposed projects.

Imhoff has said it would cost the district approximately $188 million "simply to repair and maintain our buildings so they will last another 50 to 60 years."

"This master plan is meant to ensure we're spending our facilities dollars wisely over the next several years and we have schools that can support the quality of learning our community expects," board President Matt McClellan said.

Imhoff said the Financial Advisory Board will produce initial findings and the district will continue to seek feedback from the community, something it's done through its website, various public surveys and more than 50 "coffee chats" in homes to communicate building needs and the planning process.

District officials said the new advisory group will review how buildings and academic and athletic programs would continue while the renovation and reconstruction projects are being completed.

That could include developing transitional athletics space and a "welcome office" to house a central registration point for all district families.

The advisory group also will examine the overall site layout of the schools, including athletics fields and parking, the potential for a privately funded alumni room at Upper Arlington High School and possible repairs or renovations to the district's central office building at 1950 North Mallway Drive.

Following the Financial Advisory Board's work, district Treasurer Andrew Geistfeld is expected to make a recommendation to the board on the funding, phasing and scope of the master plan in May 2017.

Columbus Dispatch reporter Shannon Gilchrist contributed to this story.

nellis@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekNate