Willard Schools looking to build three new buildings

Aaron Krause • Oct 29, 2015 at 12:12 PM

Willard City Schools students could be studying in three new buildings by the 2011-2012 school year.

School officials, after three community meetings to get input from residents, have decided the district should take advantage of state money offered to the district by constructing three new buildings a new elementary school, housing pre-k through second-grade students, a new middle level school housing third- through sixth-grade students and a new middle/high school housing seventh- through 12th graders.

The plan also calls for selling, demolishing or finding another purpose for Central, Greenfield, New Haven and Richmond elementary schools, as well as Willard Middle School and High School.

The new buildings comprise a district master plan that has grown out of community meetings. Its total cost is more than $52 million, with the school district paying more than $21,505,000, or 41percent of the total, and the state contributing more than $30,947,000, or 58 percent of the cost.

The origin of the master plan dates back to 2006, when district officials were notified they were eligible for funding for renovation and/or expansion of buildings.

The board ultimately accepted the offer to participate in the Ohio School Facilities Commission's Classrooms Facilities Program. The commission administers the state's comprehensive kindergarten through 12th grade public school construction program.

Ohio schools can apply for a state guarantee for a loan to the governing board of the community school from a bank chartered by the U.S. or the state.

Through school districts' partnerships with the commission, deteriorating, overcrowded and inefficient school facilities are renovated or entirely rebuilt to 21st century standards. The emphasis is on classrooms and labs, not spaces for extra-curricular activities. The commission assesses, among other things, the age and condition of a building and its compliance with codes.

The commission pays for a portion of a building's project, based on a district's equity rank. The number is determined by dividing the district's total property valuation by the number of students attending the district.

Currently the district is hoping the legislature could possibly correct the way the ranking is done due to the decrease in tangible personal property. Taking into account the decrease, the school's equity rank would actually be lower so the school might pay a lower percentage of the project.

Last year, the commission conducted assessments and took enrollment projections, while the school district formed facilities committees. To date, the building advisory committee has met 14 times and a core team has held another four meetings. The committees have also held three meetings open to community members, in order for citizens to learn about the project's specifics.

Throughout, district officials sought to answer four questions, with the public's input What is the best facility or grade configuration to serve the changing enrollment in our district? Which buildings should be used and what updates are needed? Should the district participate in the Ohio School Facilities Program? What is the community able or willing to pay for?

Commission representatives will determine the answer to the last question by conducting surveys of Willard residents.

Building Advisory Committee member Steve Miller, the project's architect, said a firm will be hired to interview about 300 to 400 school district residents over a four to five day period. Each interview will last 10 to 12 minutes. The survey will be conducted within the next couple of weeks.

"It's a very scientific and good strategy to use," Miller said.

A bond issue campaign will commence at about the same time of the survey. The board has not yet approved a measure to place on the November ballot. However, a PowerPoint presentation Miller and fellow Building Advisory Committee Member Jack Kousma presented proposes a 7.36 mill bond issue that would raise $21,505,555 about the same amount school district would have to put up through its partnership with the Ohio School Facilities Commission.

By placing an issue on the November ballot, the district could take advantage of current low interest rates, which are currently as low as 4 1/2 percent.

The bond issue would cost the owner of a $100,000 home $258 per year, or $21.50 a month.

Under the master plan's timeline, if voters pass a bond issue in November, planning and design of the new facilities would begin in 2009. The new buildings would open for the 2011-12 school year.

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