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Schools survey underway

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This week and next, several hundred villagers will be contacted by Wright State researchers and asked about their preferences for addressing the needs of local school facilities.

“We are still at a place where we are gathering community feedback,” District Superintent Mario Basora wrote in an email this week. “Our hope from the survey is to gather additional feedback about facilities needs from the entire community. There are many community members that have not been able to attend meetings or share feedback publicly. It is hard to hear what the community as a whole thinks without these voices included in the conversation. We think a professional survey is a great way to get a pulse on how the entire community feels about the future of our school buildings.”

The survey is the latest step in a process that began last spring, when school district leaders announced a desire to address the needs of aging school buildings, calling in the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission, or OFCC, to assess the condition of both Mills Lawn Elementary and Yellow Springs High School/McKinney School. While the district initially appeared to favor the OFCC recommendation of replacing both buildings with a new  K–12 facility on the Mills Lawn campus, at a cost of about $34 million, since then school leaders have repeatedly stated that multiple options are under consideration. 

District leaders have said they may make a decision at their regular December board meeting regarding whether to put a tax levy on the May 2018 ballot to finance the project. Five community forums have been held, with two more planned this fall, to gauge community preference on the project.

    Now the survey provides another tool for engaging the community. The district aims to reach about 300 villagers in the survey,  according to Mike Ruetschle, the architect hired by the district to handle the initial community engagement and design parts of the process, in a phone call this week. To conduct the survey, the district hired the Applied Public Research Institute, or APRI, of Wright State University, at a cost of about $9,600, according to Basora.

The survey is seeking direction from the community in both the scope of the project, and funding options, according to Ruetschle.

 First, the survey seeks to identify which of three options villagers prefer regarding the scope of the project. The first option  is building a new K–12 facility (in two buildings) on the current site of Mills Lawn School. A second option is leaving facilities in their current locations and upgrading them in a two-stage process, starting with YSHS/McKinney School, using a hybrid of rebuilding and repairing.

  Survey respondents will also be asked if they prefer a facility that includes a community performance space. That model, which would add expense to the project, was not one of those originally considered in the OFCC master plan.

Not included in the survey is the option of a new  K–12 facility on the current high school location, which the board unofficially dropped in a recent meeting.

In response to a request from the News for survey questions to include in this article, Basora said he had been advised by the APRI not to share the questions before the survey is finished, as doing so could compromise the survey’s integrity.

According to Ruetschle, the options presented are the result of the district listening to the community during the summer and spring.

The survey also looks at preferences for funding options for the project. While in the spring the district announced it was considering a property tax of about 12.7 mills for the project, the survey asks respondents to choose from a variety of combinations of property tax/income tax options. 

The survey questions were developed last week by the APRI staff after staff members visited the facilities core advisory team to determine district priorities, according to Ruetschle. Facilities core advisory team members are Basora, District Treasurer Dawn Weller, Board of Education President Aida Merhemic and member Steven Conn and Ruetschle.

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