Possible funding from the Ohio School Facilities Commission's Classroom Facilities Assistance Program would most likely go toward replacing the majority of elementary buildings and Franklin Heights High School at South-Western City Schools.

Possible funding from the Ohio School Facilities Commission’s Classroom Facilities Assistance Program would most likely go toward replacing the majority of elementary buildings and Franklin Heights High School at South-Western City Schools.

The school board on Oct. 24 discussed preliminary CFAP project options. Project participation hinges on an update of the district’s 2008 Master Facilities Plan and approval of a bond issue. The bond issue would fund the district’s 50-percent local share of the project.

The minimum project size for the district can be $207,354,884. Mike Dingledein and Andrew Maletz of SHP Leading Design, the district’s architecture firm, said based on facility age and deferred maintenance needs, the project should include the replacement of all but two elementary schools. Newer buildings Buckeye Woods and Darby Woods elementaries would receive minor renovations.

Since the elementaries alone wouldn’t satisfy the minimum project size, Dingledein and Maletz suggested replacing Franklin Heights High School or replacing two of either Brookpark, Finland, Pleasant View or Norton middle schools. Jackson Middle School wasn’t considered since it was built in 2001.

The OSFC normally recommends that an existing structure be replaced when the cost of renovating the school building exceeds two-thirds of the cost of building a new facility of the same size.

Ultimately, the board members present expressed interest in replacing Franklin Heights. Board president Mindy Garverick was absent.

“I believe Franklin Heights gives us the best opportunity to give an equitable educational experience across the district,” board vice president Randy Reisling told ThisWeek.

Franklin Heights is the only high school of the four in the district that lacks air conditioning. The cafeteria also is under-sized.

Franklin Heights was built in 1955, Dingeldein said.

In late fall of 2007, the facilities commission offered matching funds to the district to be used during the 2008-2009 school year. The state offered about half of the funds to renovate and replace various facilities throughout the district. The remaining funds were to come from a bond issue that the district placed on the ballot in 2008.

Voters rejected Issue 81, a combined levy and bond issue, in November 2008. The bond issue would have had a lifetime of 28 years and raised $262 million, or 53 percent, of a total $468 million project to revamp school facilities throughout the district.

With that issue’s failure, the district couldn’t qualify for the CFAP program, and it won’t qualify until voters approve a bond issue.

Because the district’s payment is decreasing on its debt structure, a proposed bond issue could be offered at no new millage to voters, district treasurer Hugh Garside told ThisWeek.

During the meeting, board member Jo Ellen Myers said she had a problem with the labeling of “no new millage.”

“It is new millage. It’s at the same rate,” Myers said, saying come Jan. 1, 2013, voters “will have, in a sense, money in their pocket and you’re asking for it back.”

Reisling said the district has a chance to eliminate some of the $70 million in deferred maintenance across the district.

The district isn’t addressing any equity across district buildings, Reisling said. “We’re just keeping them afloat for the time being,” he said.

Reisling said he looks at the bond issue as a replacement. As a taxpayer, “at the end I’m going to be able to save money long-term because I don’t have to pay for that deferred maintenance out of my tax dollars.” The project gives the district an opportunity to take advantage of state dollars, he said.

Garside said taxpayers wouldn’t “be paying any more than they’re paying currently.”

“We just need to be clear and transparent in what we’re asking the taxpayers to do,” Garside said.

More than half the 30 buildings in the South-Western City School District were built during or prior to the 1950s, and the district has accumulated $70 million worth of maintenance needs.

The district typically receives $1 million annually from permanent improvement funds that go toward “deferred” maintenance, which is postponed, said facilities coordinator Mark Waller.

“The math doesn’t work out. We will never catch up,” he said.

While many district buildings look good from the outside, “Their infrastructure is falling apart,” Waller said.

Many buildings have electrical systems insufficient to support current technology or required classroom appliances, Waller said.

Many buildings built in the 1950s have classrooms with a maximum of two electrical outlets. The maintenance department is called daily to classrooms at various buildings to reset breakers or transfer electrical loads from one circuit to another to cover needs and requirements, he said.

Maintenance work sometimes stops classes for 20 minutes or even up to a full day, depending on the job required.

Plumbing issues also plague district buildings.

Many water mains in different buildings need to be replaced, Waller said. Piping systems have scale buildup, and the resulting restricted water flow affects ice machines, kitchen equipment, water fountains and restrooms. The school staff includes two full-time plumbers who respond to service calls daily.

More than 50 percent of the buildings have no air conditioning.

Many have windows that don’t operate correctly and parts for the windows are unavailable.

Many buildings are behind on their roof replacement schedules. Money isn’t available to do a partial replacement as needed, resulting in roof leaks.

“All of our classrooms are small in size and do not provide the sufficient space for normal classroom activities,” Waller said.

These classrooms lack proper storage for lockers and cubbies.

Newer, larger classrooms have more outlets and better use of heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems, he said.

Waller estimated the older classrooms are about 10 percent smaller than the district’s newer classrooms. Still, the eight district buildings built from 1999 to 2003 don’t meet current Ohio School Facilities Commission standards.