While the South-Western City School District concentrated this year on getting its school-facilities bond issue on the ballot and approved, the focus of the coming year will be about finalizing plans for the project.
"The process will be very similar to what we did with the first segment of our OFCC (Ohio Facilities Construction Commission) project," Superintendent Bill Wise said. "This project, like the last one, is a partnership with the OFCC, and we'll be spending the next year entering into our agreement with the commission, selling the bonds and securing an architect and construction manager for the second phase."
Voters approved Issue 7, a 1.86-mill bond issue, by a wide margin Nov. 6. The issue passed with 26,289 in favor to 16,653 against, or 61 to 38 percent, according to unofficial final results from the Franklin County Board of Elections.
With the passage of the 38-year, $93.4 million bond issue, the district will move forward with plans to construct new buildings at Brookpark, Finland, Norton and Pleasant View middle schools and make renovations at Jackson Middle School and East Franklin Elementary School.
"We appreciate the support we've received from the community," Wise said. "We're excited to get started on the next segment of our project."
An architect and construction manager will be hired next fall, Wise said.
The process to finalize a design plan is expected to take about 18 months, and it will take about two years to construct the new schools and complete the renovations at the other buildings, Wise said.
"Securing the financing is the next step and we anticipate selling the bonds in early to mid-2019," he said.
A change in OFCC rules means the commission will work with the district in the process of hiring both the architect and construction manager, he said.
When the district engaged in hiring an architect for the first segment of the OFCC project in 2012, it was able to conduct the process on its own, Wise said. The OFCC did take part in hiring a construction manager.
"Now they will be equal partners in both processes," he said. "If you're doing an OFCC project, you follow the rules they set."
As with the first segment, the design process for the new middle school buildings will include opportunities for community members to give their input, Wise said.
Last spring, as the district prepared to go to the ballot, South-Western held a series of community meetings to gather input from residents about what they were looking for in the middle school designs.
"What the groups who participated told us was that they liked the materials we selected for the elementary buildings -- like the brick and sloped roofs -- but they felt the middle schools should have a much different feel," Wise said.
"There are differences between the programs at the middle school and elementary school levels, he said.
"At the middle school level, there's much more intensive academics, a more-involved music program and the technology in use at the schools is more sophisticated and intricate," Wise said. "The buildings need to be design to accommodate those differences."
The success of the first segment of the district's OFCC project, which came in on time and under budget, helped paved the way for overwhelming success of the current bond issue, Wise said.
"It was promises made, promises kept and that gave people the confidence and trust to vote to provide the local funding for the next phase," said Larry Titus, who led the campaign committee with Camille Peterson.
The total cost of the project will be about $193 million. The OFCC will provide $60 million or about half of the project's core cost.
The bond issue will also fund asphalt and roofing repairs throughout the district, something the commission will not.
South-Western will continue to collect the same millage rate due to the retirement of existing bond debt at the end of this year.
Property owners will continue to pay about $70 in school property taxes per $100,000 in valuation.
"One of the biggest efforts we made in the campaign was to let people know they would not be paying any additional tax dollars to get this project completed," Peterson said. "I think once they understood that, it made it easy for residents to support the bond issue."