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Facilities options narrow

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Presented with questions about their level of support for four proposed scenarios to address identified structural needs in the district’s schools, a majority of the participants at a community forum last week responded that they “strongly support” construction of a new K–12 facility at the current site of the middle/high school on East Enon Road.

About 80 people logged into the public forum Thursday, March 4, conducted online through the Zoom conference website. Representatives of the SHP architectural firm, which is working with the school district to develop a facilities master plan, facilitated the 90-minute meeting.

The session, the second of three planned community forums, focused on several options rising to the top in the planning process, along with their projected costs. While the first forum began with a presentation by SHP reps and district Superintendent Terri Holden, followed by questions in the second half, the March 4 session leaders responded throughout to community input shared via the video conference “chat” feature.

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Two of the options put before participants March 4 involve different levels of renovation at the district’s two campuses; and two feature transitioning to a K–12 facility — either by construction of a new building or a major renovation with some demolition and construction — at the current middle/high school campus on East Enon Road.

Two previously discussed proposals — one involving construction of a K–12 building on property currently owned by Antioch College and one featuring minor renovations to create a K–12 structure at the East Enon Road campus — have both been shelved and were not presented for consideration Thursday night.

The two remaining options leading to a K–12 campus on East Enon Road involve a partnership with the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission, or OFCC, which includes a possible 26% reimbursement of costs from the state if its recommendations are met. The move to a K–12 setting is among the agency’s recommendations, based on the district’s projected enrollment.

District leaders have stressed that should the community choose to renovate the current buildings, then Yellow Springs will be responsible for all costs, without the support of OFCC funds.

Working off of a prioritized list of needs compiled in 2019 and 2020 by the Facilities Task Force, SHP architect Todd Thackery has assigned costs to each of the identified items, which he presented Thursday to the meeting participants. Noting that the figures represented his “best conservative shot,” Thackery said he took a “comprehensive,” rather than a piecemeal, approach in considering the different building systems — for example, calculating a complete overhaul of the electrical system rather than targeted fixes of particular areas in the buildings.

In its work, and primarily using a 2019 assessment by the Fanning Howey engineering firm for reference, the task force separated “high priority” needs from “medium priority” needs that members determined might be deferred. Thackery looked at both separately.

He said that fixing the “high priority” needs at Mills Lawn could cost nearly $8.9 million dollars, while at the middle/high school they could come to almost $13.5 million, for a district total of more than $22 million.

The costs for “medium priority” items, according to Thackery, could total an additional $3.9 million at Mills Lawn and nearly $6.7 at the middle/high school, for a total of almost $10.6 million.

Adding high and medium priority needs together comes to just over $32.9 million, Thackery said.

Comparatively, he said new construction of a K–12 facility on East Enon Road would cost about $35 million. Reimbursement from the state at an estimated $9.1 million would leave the local share at $25.9 million.

Total costs for a K–12 facility combining renovation, demolition and construction, would cost about $33 million. With state funding of $8.5 million in reimbursement, the local share would comes to $24.5 million, according to the numbers presented Thursday.

After being presented with these numbers, which are higher than estimates considered by the Facilities Task Force, meeting participants were polled on their option preferences, the results of which are shown in the accompanying graphic on page 1.

A new K–12 campus was the clear favorite among Thursday’s group, which like the first forum in February, included many already involved in the master planning process as teachers, parents, students and members of the advisory teams. A breakdown in attendance showed 73% identifying themselves as residents, 46% as parents, 23% as district employees, 8% as business owners, 5% as students and 5% as local officials.

Mills Lawn greenspace

At the start of the meeting, before getting into the meat of the session, Superintendent Holden took a few minutes to address concerns within the village about the future of the greenspace on the western side of the Mills Lawn property.

A local group is advocating for the preservation of the undeveloped portion of the school property — about five acres — as a community park.

“We prefer to do that [preserve the greenspace] as well,” Holden said. “But we also have a responsibility  to meet the needs of our students. This [facilities planning] process is key in that.”

She said that district leaders support the community’s current use of the greenspace on the site, and if the decision is made to renovate both school campuses where they currently sit, then the Mills Lawn greenspace will remain “exactly” as it is.

Its use will arise as an issue, however, if the decision is made to pursue a K–12 facility on East Enon Road.

“At that point, we want to engage with the community, with the group interested in preserving Mills Lawn,” Holden said about the future of that property.

“We have an interest in greenspace just as much as everyone else,” she said.

The next community forum is scheduled Wednesday, March 17. Recorded videos of the forums are posted on the website. The News will cover more of the community comments from the March 4 meeting along with coverage of next Wednesday’s forum.


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