Jeff Gordon, Olentangy Schools' director of business management and facilities, says school buildings don't age all that differently from houses.
Homeowners, he said, understand that such components as doors, windows, carpeting, pavement and roofing require ongoing maintenance and, when appropriate, replacement. Aging utilities such as furnaces, air conditioners and water pipes also affect schools in much the same ways they do homes, Gordon said.
Of course, he said, schools have concerns -- including security and technology -- that could affect schools differently from residences, but these items are no less impactful on students' educational experience.
District voters will see a three-part tax issue on the March 17 ballot.
The three parts are a no-new-millage bond issue to fund the construction of a new middle school and two elementary schools; a 0.5-mill permanent-improvements levy to fund ongoing maintenance and improvement of facilities throughout the district; and a 7.4-mill operating levy for such day-to-day expenses as staff salaries and program costs.
For residents, approval of the issue would increase property taxes by about $277 annually for every $100,000 of home valuation. For the district, it would generate about $31 million each year for operations and $2.1 million for improvements starting in 2021.
Even in a district with many newer schools, maintenance is vital, district leaders said.
"We're building new buildings, but we also have aging facilities," said Superintendent Mark Raiff.
"In the next five years, we'll have seven buildings that will have become 20 years old, and there are more to come after that. Those buildings need to be maintained."
Decisions on when and how to schedule that upkeep, Gordon said, are as important to the schools as they are to homeowners.
The district has done some "stretching and patching to get by" when appropriate, but in some cases, that's no longer feasible, he said, citing the windows at Wyandot Run Elementary School as an example.
Wyandot Run, the district's oldest elementary school building, opened in 1993, Gordon said.
"When a building has mechanical issues -- say a boiler or chiller goes out -- how we deal with it, whether a kid has to wear a coat or a classroom is moved temporarily, that creates a distraction for the kids and makes for a difficult environment for the teacher," Gordon said.
Such facilities concerns as security, playgrounds and technology are addressed similarly, Gordon said. For example, the district is working to bring all of its media centers up to the standards of its newest buildings.
"Technology is an area where we're always trying to keep up. The permanent-improvements levy supports technology, and that's an area that directly impacts students," board member Mindy Patrick said.
Fully inclusive playgrounds also are important to district officials, Gordon said.
"All of our playgrounds met (Americans with Disabilities Act) standards when they were installed -- and still do -- but as we add new buildings, we try to bring existing ones up to new guidelines," Gordon said. "Plus, as equipment ages, we need to keep it updated for the safety of all students and so that all students can participate."
For Raiff, those issues address his focus on "eliminating nonacademic barriers to learning."
Gordon said the permanent-improvements levy will allow the district to standardize entrance security throughout the district.
In addition to double-door, two-step-verification security systems at all buildings, less obvious security measures -- such as concrete barriers and large landscape features at main entryways -- "make it more difficult to get vehicles closer to entrances," Gordon said.
"All of these things are things you need to continue looking at to provide a safe, comfortable environment for learning," he said.