What's good for Grandview? A new group's answer to that question differs slightly from the one offered earlier this year by the Grandview Heights City School District.
The group, dubbed Good for Grandview, has posted an online petition asking the school board to develop a new plan for its facilities that would be more affordable and acceptable to the community.
The group is not opposed to a facilities plan or to the district placing a funding issue on the ballot, said Jon Murphy, a Grandview alumnus, parent and one of Good for Grandview's organizers.
"We recognize that our school facilities are in need of repair and attention," he said. "They are historic old buildings and they need upkeep, just like an old house."
"Anyone who has spent time in our schools knows they are in need of repair and renovation," said parent Steve McIntosh, another Good for Grandview organizer.
"But 100 percent of the cost of a facilities project will be paid for by Grandview and Marble Cliff residents and businesses," he said. "We're a small community. A plan like the one that has been proposed would be greater than any that this community has seen before."
Good for Grandview's concern is the facilities plan as recommended by Superintendent Andy Culp would prove too costly and too big for the community to support, McIntosh said.
The group's goal is to encourage district officials to present a facilities plan that the community can support, he said.
The district's plan
In September, Culp recommended a project that would involve renovating Stevenson Elementary School and Grandview Heights High School and building a new school for grades 4-8, to be constructed on the site of Edison Intermediate/Larson Middle School on Oakland Avenue.
The estimated cost of the project would be between $45 million and $50 million.
Culp's recommendation followed a lengthy process that started with an assessment of each school building, along with efforts to seek public opinion that included copious meetings, online surveys and tours of the schools.
Culp chose his recommended plan from among three final options. A less-costly plan would have seen modest repairs to all three school buildings, with a more-expensive route featuring extensive renovations and repairs.
The organizers of Good for Grandview all were intensely engaged in the facility-planning process, attending the meetings and taking tours of the buildings, McIntosh said.
"As the process evolved, I think we all found ourselves questioning where the process was taking us versus what we felt was the collective sentiment of many who were following the process," he said, "and that is ... if the district pursued a ballot measure based on the superintendent's recommendation, it would be voted down."
"We're not a negative group," said former school board member Kathy Lithgow. "We're trying to be constructive."
"The proposal didn't seem to reflect what I was hearing from the community at the public-engagement meetings," said Dot Keil, another Good for Grandview organizer.
Culp said the district's "reality" is that it has $44.5 million of deferred maintenance but an annual permanent-improvement budget of just $550,000.
"The community-drive plan I presented addresses our short- and long-term fiscal situation and prevents classroom funds from being diverted to cover facilities' needs," he said.
The chosen plan was the outcome of two years of research and information-gathering and "represented the feedback that we received," he said.
"It is entirely community-driven and is based on over 2,600 touch points with the community," he said.
No final decisions have been made about the scope of the construction projects or exact costs of any potential ballot issue, Culp said.
"Our process has not concluded, but we do have a plan for engaging in these important final decisions, including additional community meetings and surveys, as well as community coffees to gather additional feedback," he said. "We also look forward to working with the members of the financial advisory committee and making sure they provide us with their honest feedback and thoughts on a plan."
The committee will begin meeting next month and is expected to work through March. The volunteer group will assist in making recommendations to the school board regarding both funding the facility plan and a possible operating levy, Culp said.
"The committee will provide exact costs to our residents, an exact timeline for construction, swing-space locations and timeline, a cost-benefit analysis for segmenting construction, a recommendation to invest in our K-12 athletic facility, and an analysis of our existing permanent-improvement levy and whether to increase it or keep it the same," he said.
The group's requests
Good for Grandview is conducting its petition drive now in an effort to show the superintendent and committee that a large number of residents would like to see a revised plan that would cost less, Lithgow said.
"When I was on the school board, we went through several levies, and it's always a huge effort," she said. "You need to know the community is behind you when you go to the ballot."
The group's petition asks for a new plan that:
* Prioritizes immediate repairs and accessibility in all buildings.
* Details an affordable long-term vision that includes sustainable funding for ongoing facility maintenance and operating expenses.
* Accommodates the possibility of a significant increase in student enrollment.
"We would like the plan to be transparent and easy to understand for all community members," Lithgow said.
The district's goal, Culp said, is in fact to make the process "transparent, honest and community-driven," Culp said.
"We believe that we have and will continue to do this with integrity and transparency," he said. "Our core values and theme of our two-and-a-half-year community-driven facility-planning process has been 'Join the Conversation.' "
Lithgow said her group is not against a ballot issue.
In fact, she said, if someone indicates they are opposed in general to a ballot issue for facilities, group members ask that person not to sign the petition, Lithgow said.
The group began its petition drive just before Thanksgiving. As of Dec. 4, 254 people had signed it.
"It's a broad cross-section of the community: parents of current students, former school board members, former PTO members, members of the education foundation and Bobcat Boosters and community members," McIntosh said. "They are all people who are willing to openly put their name to the petition."
Culp said he met several times with members of Good for Grandview, and he welcomes additional meetings with the group and any community members.
"I think we all have the same goal: making sure our students, community and staff have the most up-to-date facilities they need to be successful at a reasonable cost to taxpayers while addressing the short- and long-term fiscal health of our district," he said.
For more information about Good for Grandview and its mission or to view and sign the petition, visit goodfor grandview.org. The group also has a Facebook page at facebook.com/goodforgrandview.