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Three school facilities options to be created
By Beth Church
The Rossford Board of Education is expecting to see three options in late September for school facilities­–with a hope that voters could decide on a plan in March 2016.
At a July 22 workshop to discuss facilities, the school board created a list of “non-negotiable” characteristics they would like to see in Rossford Schools in five years.
The 3.5 hour meeting was facilitated by Kathy LaSota of the Ohio School Boards Association who directed the conversation so the board could reach a consensus on a facilities plan.
“You cannot delegate this,” she told them. “This is your decision, informed by the community.”
Ms. LaSota warned the board members at the beginning of the meeting, “Not all of you will walk away with everything you want.”
Non-Negotiables Decided
The “non-negotiable” items they unanimously agreed upon include a 21st century learning environment on one or two campuses, where the school district owns the building and land.
They also concurred that the facilities should consolidate maintenance, include a permanent maintenance plan and reduce overall operating costs from what is currently spent.
Safety and security also were affirmed, with no easy access to students by the public.
Their decision eliminated the option of permanently moving the high school to Owens Community College– a proposal put forth in June as part of a plan to revitalize downtown Rossford.
Board members were split over whether to construct all new buildings or renovate.
Board member Jackie Huffman proposed the option of “new buildings with some history preserved.”
“I know there’s a huge love of the [high school] building. I can’t say I share that view, but I have good memories of it,” she said. “I don’t think we should keep the building.”
She noted the many “chopped up” additions to the high school and its poor accommodations for handicapped students.
Mrs. Huffman raised the idea of locating all grades at the Glenwood complex, which would be “more at the center of the district.”
“I know people love it in the downtown area in Rossford,” she said.
Board member Dawn Burks said, “I’m along the lines with Jackie. I’d like to see the cost analysis. What it looks like for both. The historical piece is important, but I don’t know if it’s cost effective.”
Board member Jackie Brown disagreed, “Strictly new–without an opportunity to renovate? I do have a problem with that. We need an option to renovate the high school.”
A combination of new construction and renovation was mentioned by board member Beverly Koch, with the example of Scott High School’s renovation.
“It was gutted inside, but they kept the facade,” she explained. “They added extra space.”
Mrs. Huffman said she is willing to compromise in preserving some historical features.
“Gut the building and save the face, keep the senior steps and certain little things you could save, but there needs to be a new building,” she said.
In 2010, Rossford voters turned down a plan to build a new K-12 school at the Glenwood complex.
In 2013, voters rejected phase one of a $76 million plan to build new elementaries that would have been followed by a second phase to renovate the high school at its current downtown location.
Mrs. Koch noted the 2013 vote did not address any improvements to the high school, which she believes many people support.
“All I keep hearing is ‘keep the junior high and high school downtown and renovate.’ I hear people saying ‘put phase two before us,’ she explained.
She believes one of the options should be a modified version of phase two.
Superintendent Dan Creps will develop three options for facilities that incorporate the list of non-negotiables.
“Something needs to be done. I feel we are at a crossroads,” he said. “We received considerable feedback from the community, but we can’t determine what the most popular option is. I wish we knew the answer to that.”
During the process of weighing options, board members would like to see an “apples to apples” comparison with data on lifespan of buildings, cost, quality, quality of materials and efficiency for new and renovated buildings. A long-term cost impact also is desired, showing future expenses.
They also decided the facilities plan should include “a one-time ask” for a bond levy, followed by a permanent improvement (PI) levy to pay for maintenance.
“A PI levy would ensure the upkeep of whatever we’re giving the public and the kids,” Mrs. Koch said.
Mrs. Brown further suggested that a professional facility manager should be hired to oversee the construction projects.
She also would like “an outside third party” evaluate the plans the superintendent will submit to the board.
Mrs. Huffman recommended that the process also include discussions with the City of Rossford and Perrysburg Township about “what will happen to sites that are abandoned.”
Facilities History
The school buildings were constructed in 1922, 1927, 1929, 1951 and 1962.
The new Glenwood athletic complex built in 2009 used enterprise zone funds.
The last bond issue passed by voters was in 1981, and other bond issues were defeated in 1995, 1996, 2010 and 2013.
“A school district that hasn’t passed a bond issue in 34 years is almost a dinosaur,” Ms. LaSota noted.
A facilities assessment report was completed in 2001, a preliminary master plan in 2002, a long-range plan survey in 2008, a preliminary master plan in 2009, a community survey in 2010, a facilities condition assessment in 2012 and master plan steering committee surveys in 2013.
“You have spent an enormous amount of time, energy and resources on studies,” Ms. LaSota said. “All of those conversations over all those years–a long, long time.
“How much study, committee work and information do you need to make an informed decision in terms of facilities?”
Mrs. Brown noted that the option of locating the school at Owens changed conversations that previously debated “renovate vs. new.”
She believes another survey is necessary to determine what voters want.
The board can develop an in-depth facilities plan, but it will be fruitless if voters do not support a levy to fund construction, she said.
“Are they willing to pass it?” she asked. “That’s where the survey comes in.”
Board president Ken Sutter said he is weighing the decision based on cost and community input.
“For me, it comes down to cost,” he said. “I like the front facade, but as far as new or renovate or a combination, it’s what the community will vote for.”
Timeline
Ms. Burks urged that a timeline be established for the process to stay on track.
Mr. Creps agreed that he could be prepared by late September to bring three options for the board to consider.
Community input, including a survey, could take place in October.
A final recommendation then would be approved by the board in November or December.
That timeline would allow a levy to be placed on the March 2016 ballot by the deadline of December 16.
However, Mrs. Brown and Ms. Burks emphasized that they do not want to rush the process just to meet the December deadline.
“March is not a requirement,” Ms. Burks said. “It’s more about going through the process.”
Mrs. Brown pressed for the timeline to accommodate another community survey.
Ms. Burks also pointed out that the board members could change in January, depending on who is elected in November. The seats held by Mrs. Koch, Mrs. Brown and Mr. Sutter are up for election this fall.
“If that brings in new people, these non-negotiables could look completely different. So then we’re backtracking to catch everybody up to speed,” Ms. Burks said.


What school board members are saying about facilities...

Ken Sutter, board president: “For me, it comes down to cost. I like the front facade. But as far as new or renovate or a combination, it’s what the community will vote for.”

Jackie Brown: “Strictly new–without an opportunity to renovate? I do have a problem with that. We need an option to renovate the high school.”

Jackie Huffman: “I know there’s a huge love of the building. I can’t say I share that view, but I have good memories of it. I don’t think we should keep the building. Gut the building and save the face, keep the senior steps and certain little things you could save, but there needs to be a new building.”

Dawn Burks: “I’d like to see the cost analysis. What it looks like for both. The historical piece is important, but I don’t know if it’s cost effective.”

Beverly Koch: “All I keep hearing is ‘keep the junior high and high school downtown and renovate.’ I hear people saying ‘put phase two before us.’ Phase two is where we start, and add to it. That was not on the ballot–only phase one for the elementary schools, and that just lost by about 84 votes.”


‘Non-negotiables’ established in plan for school facilities

The five school board members all agreed to the following characteristics of new school facilities:
•One or two campuses
•School district owns building and land–not a lease
•21st century learning environment
•Reduces overall operating costs from current costs
•Should be community centers, allow more after-school activities
•Should make maintenance easier, and include a plan to permanently maintain buildings and grounds
•Safety and security are primary, with no easy access to students by the public

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Rossford lies at the heart of the Crossroads of America, an area experiencing tremendous economic growth, located at the crossroads of Interstate 75 and the Ohio Turnpike. The city's population of approximately 6,000 is primarily a mix of descendants of Polish, Czechoslovakian, German and Ukrainian workers who came from Pennsylvania to work at the glass plant, now Pilkington.

Rossford was incorporated as a village in 1939 and as a city in 1971. The City is a municipal corporation which operates under its own charter and is governed by a mayor and seven-member City Council. Rossford is served by full-time police and part-time fire departments, dispatched from the neighboring Village of Walbridge.

The City maintains a Community Recreation Center and three parks, one of which,Veterans Memorial Park, features a seasonal marina along with picnic areas and diamonds and courts for baseball, tennis, basketball and volleyball.

Rossford has three elementary schools, Glenwood, Indian Hills and Eagle Point, a junior high and high school and All Saints parochial school for grades pre-kindergarten through eight.

The city boasts a public library and many service and community organizations such as the Rossford Business Association, Lions Club and Veterans of Foreign Wars. Its Rossford Community Service League sponsors annual activities such as a Valentine's Day Dance, Easter egg hunt, Halloween, Memorial Day parades and their Christmas tree lighting.


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