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2024
Yellow Springs School Board

Four potential facilities upgrade plans were considered for a November levy vote at a special meeting of the Yellow Springs school board on Friday, April 28. Shown here is Millls Lawn Elementary as it appeared in late September. (Drone photo by Bryan Cady)

Yellow Springs school board divided on facilities upgrade plans

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A special meeting of the Yellow Springs school board on Friday, April 28, became tense as board members and district administrators discussed the four potential facilities upgrade plans being considered for a November levy vote.

By the meeting’s end, those same four plans remained in consideration, but the board’s members were divided over which of the four they might ultimately support at their next regular meeting May 22; the board must decide on a single plan by that meeting in order to place a levy on the ballot in November.

Though the four plans still remain, the square footage and cost estimates for three of them have been updated. Board Vice President Dorothée Bouquet suggested during the meeting that initial estimates for what renovations would cost at Mills Lawn under Option X2 were conservative and asked that those estimates be augmented. Board member Judith Hempfling also suggested that Option C6, the initial cost estimates for which spanned $55.8 million to $59.2 million depending on the scope of the associated renovations, be narrowed to its least expensive option.

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In a later, nonpublic meeting of the board’s core facilities team — which consists of Bouquet, Hempfling, Superintendent Terri Holden, district Treasurer Jacob McGrath and the district’s contracted architect, Mike Ruetschle — the estimates for Options X2, B2 and C6 were adjusted, based on both the suggestions from Bouquet and Hempfling and by the team’s completed review of the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission’s program of requirements, or POR, which regulates the size of OFCC-sponsored projects.

Following review of the POR, estimates for all three OFCC co-funded projects shifted, with B2’s square footage decreasing from 123,452 to 122,310 and cost decreasing from $52.8 million to $52.3 million; X2’s square footage growing from 159,313 to 160,558 and cost increasing from $54.3 million to $57.2 million; and C6’s square footage reduced from 146,764 to 143,619, and its cost lowered to an estimate of $54.3 million.

Facilities options under consideration

The facilities options currently under consideration by the school board, with cost and square footage for several options updated since this information was last printed:

Option A1 Estimated size and cost: 124,214 square feet, $35 million; no OFCC rebate
Renovate current buildings at both Mills Lawn campus and the McKinney Middle and Yellow Springs High schools campus, including repairing the exteriors of all buildings and complete systems replacements at both campuses;
Demolition of the modular band room at Mills Lawn and addition of a new band room;
• Renovation to create a secure vestibule at Mills Lawn;
• Demolition of the modular unit that houses McKinney Middle School and addition of five new classrooms;
• Demolition of the current band room at the middle and high schools and addition of a new band room;
Construction of new offices and secure vestibule at the middle and high schools.

Option B2 — Estimated size and cost: 122,310 square feet, $52.3 million; qualifies for estimated future Ohio Facilities Construction Commission, or OFCC, rebate of $10.4 million.
• Demolition of Mills Lawn;
• Combined demolition, renovation and new construction for a K–12 campus at East Enon Road, maintaining the current middle and high school gym and the facility’s 2002 addition.
• New construction would include adding a new, second gym, a new band room, a secure vestibule and classroom spaces in a new configuration. The original gym, which would serve elementary students, would be renovated to also serve as an auditorium.

Option X2 — Estimated size and cost: 160,558 square feet, $57.2 million; qualifies for estimated future OFCC rebate of $9.3 million.
• Renovation of a portion of Mills Lawn for use as a Pre-K–2 school and Board of Education offices, with the remaining portion potentially to be leased to another entity;
• Combined demolition, renovation and new construction for a 3–12 campus at East Enon Road, maintaining the current middle and high school gym and the facility’s 2002 addition.
• New construction would include adding a new, second gym, a new band room, a secure vestibule and classroom spaces in a new configuration. The original gym, which would serve elementary students, would be renovated to also serve as an auditorium.

Option C6 — Estimated size and cost: 146,764 square feet, $54.3 million; estimated future OFCC rebate of $8.2 million
• Renovation of Mills Lawn for use as a K–5 school;
• Combination demolition, renovation and new construction for a 6–12 facility at East Enon Road, maintaining the current middle and high school gym and the facility’s 2002 addition.
• New construction would include adding a new band room, a secure vestibule and classroom spaces in a new configuration. The gym would be renovated to also serve as an auditorium.

For more information on each plan, go to http://www.ysschools.org/facilities.

Differences remain

Much of the meeting’s discussion centered on Option X2, one of the newest of the plans in consideration, which was unveiled to the public at an April 21 work session, along with Option C6. Holden spoke to the board on the potential functionality of Option X2, which would renovate the majority of Mills Lawn as a preK–2 school and district offices, with the remaining, unrenovated portion potentially to be leased to another entity; and renovation, demolition and new construction at East Enon Road to create a 3–12 school.

Holden said that Option X2 was originally conceived in a nonpublic meeting by the board’s core team, and that the plan — which is the largest of the potential plans in square footage — was the result of attempting to maximize square footage at the East Enon Road site, a part of the proposed project that would be eligible for a rebate from the OFCC. At the same time, she said, the plan aims to minimize the amount of renovation work that would need to be completed at Mills Lawn, which will not be eligible for an OFCC rebate, by reducing the number of students attending the elementary school.

“And I hope we know there’s value in an OFCC co-funded project,” Holden said. “This split [in grade levels] not only maximizes that value, but it also makes sense academically.”

Holden echoed statements made by Mills Lawn Principal Megan Winston at the April 21 work session, during which she laid out the advantages of having grades 3–12 on a single campus, including improved “vertical alignment” — or strategies that address how what is taught in one grade level affects the next grade level — based on educators for many grade levels being on the same campus; and the ability to introduce some fine arts and athletics at the elementary level that have not yet been offered to younger students. McGrath later added that a public preschool program had been identified as a goal during the board’s strategic planning sessions.

“The possibilities for us are immense,” Holden said. “And we are only limited by our stubbornness, our arrogance and our lack of creativity.”

Though other board members spoke in favor of Option X2, Hempfling and board member Amy Magnus did not lend their support, with Hempfling saying she had spoken with members of the community who expressed “significant concerns” with the potential plan, including its cost and the reduced use of Mills Lawn as a school.

“The last thing we want to do is put something forward that is not going to garner really big support in the community,” she said.

Magnus later added: “There’s policy considerations in terms of having … tenants on campus.”

“Leased space would be a revenue source for the district,” McGrath said. “There are restrictions around it, but restrictions can easily be met.”

According to McGrath, a school district offering a portion of its property for lease must first offer that space to “a list of entities,” including “educational entities within the district bounds.” If those entities do not make an offer within 60 days, the district would be able to “pretty much open it up to everyone,” McGrath said.

As the board moved on to attempting to narrow the list of options, Hempfling suggested cutting B2 in addition to narrowing down the cost of C6, and asked that the board keep A1 in consideration.

“At the last listening session, the vast majority of people called out to the A1 plan, so I think we need to leave it on the docket,” she said.

However, Bouquet, board member Luisa Bieri Rios and board President TJ Turner said they did not view A1 as being a viable plan, with each saying they did not believe the renovations included in the plan would meet educational needs for the district.

“I don’t know how I can support A1 based on what it does not provide for teachers,” Turner said.

Bieri Rios added that, in addition to hearing support from community members for A1, the board had received a letter with 50 signatories in support of X2.

Ahead of the meeting, board members were asked by Turner to complete a rubric ranking each of the four facilities options by way of 32 criteria relating to affordability and financial sustainability, learning environment, inclusion and wellness and environmental sustainability. They were then asked to tally each of the rankings into a score.

Both Bouquet and Turner ranked Option B2 highest according to their rubrics, followed closely by Option X2; Bieri Rios ranked X2 at the top, followed by B2. All three board members ranked Option A1 at the bottom of the four options.

“X, for me, is a compromise — it is a way to keep the two campuses, which I know is very important to the community,” Bouquet said.

Magnus did not rank the options according to a tally, but said they considered A1 and C6 to be “fairly comparable; Hempfling did not complete the rubric.

At several points during the meeting, discussion turned to heated argument, and the members of the board ultimately decided not to pursue culling the list of options that evening. Instead, they questioned how they might achieve a unity of purpose heading into their May 22 meeting.

According to the district’s legal firm, Bricker & Graydon, rather than a simple majority, the board is required to reach a supermajority affirmative vote by two-thirds of the board — four of its five members — for both a resolution of necessity for bonds and income tax in June and a resolution to proceed for bonds and income tax in July in order to file election proceedings for a levy with the county by the Aug. 1 deadline.

“Where do we see the path forward?” Bieri Rios asked. “My understanding is we need a vote of four out of five. … I don’t know that I will be able to look our teachers in the eye in the future if we do not work to overcome our differences and find a path forward for the children.”

Following the special meeting, Hempfling and Magnus shared an open letter with the board reiterating their support of Option A1, but added:

“If [A1] cannot gain the support of four members of the school board, we ask that the C plans 5 and 6 be looked at in detail to reduce the cost, and that the added benefit of these plans be clearly identified. This avenue would allow the community to decide if it can manage the cost burden. These plans move sixth grade, or fifth and sixth, to the [East Enon Road] campus with an OFCC project. Mills Lawn School would be renovated as our elementary school, and a preschool would be added when the district is prepared.”

The letter goes on to say that Hempfling and Magnus will not support Options X2 or B2 for a levy, citing “barriers which hamper their ability to gain broad community support,” including cost. The letter adds that if “no plan put forward can gain a supermajority support, the board should consider putting an issue on the ballot sufficient to address pressing maintenance issues as an interim step.”

“We therefore ask that the school board develop a compromise which will make it possible for us to join a supermajority,” the letter reads.

The Board of Education will hold its next regular meeting Monday, May 22, 6–8 p.m., in the Yellow Springs High School Media Center.

A community survey on the current facilities options, sponsored by the Yellow Springs Community Foundation, is currently ongoing and will be available for completion through Monday, May 15, at 6 p.m. The survey may be completed online at yscf.org/survey; assistance with filling out the online survey will be available at the library Saturday, May 13, 2–4 p.m., in the Virginia Hamilton Meeting Room.

Note that this survey is not sponsored or funded by Yellow Springs Schools, though the data collected by the survey will be available to school board members and the general public beginning Friday, May 19.

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2 Responses to “Yellow Springs school board divided on facilities upgrade plans”

  1. Time Traveler says:

    That do add a bit of mystery, don’t it?

  2. vick mickunas says:

    The timeline on this article states that it was published on Thursday, May 18. Then at the bottom of the article we see this information:

    “A community survey on the current facilities options, sponsored by the Yellow Springs Community Foundation, is currently ongoing and will be available for completion through Monday, May 15, at 6 p.m. The survey may be completed online at yscf.org/survey; assistance with filling out the online survey will be available at the library Saturday, May 13, 2–4 p.m., in the Virginia Hamilton Meeting Room.’

    We might need time machines to go back to before May 15 to complete the survey in time. My time machine isn’t working too well, lately.

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