Oakwood proposals range from fixes to new schools, but both are costly

Published: Tuesday, February 27, 2018 @ 11:55 PM

            Oakwood High School students study in the entryway of the building during their lunch period. The Oakwood City School District scored number one in Ohio in the “Prepared for Success” measurement, according to the Ohio school report cards data released last fall. TY GREENLEES/STAFF
            Ty Greenlees
Oakwood High School students study in the entryway of the building during their lunch period. The Oakwood City School District scored number one in Ohio in the “Prepared for Success” measurement, according to the Ohio school report cards data released last fall. TY GREENLEES/STAFF(Ty Greenlees)

Oakwood school officials presented seven school facility options to residents Wednesday, ranging from a comprehensive renovation of all existing facilities at $48 million, to $102 million for those renovations plus a new high school and early learning center building.

The 200-person community meeting stretched more than three hours – going over spreadsheets and building diagrams, breaking into small-group discussions, and firing questions at Superintendent Kyle Ramey and others.

RELATED: Oakwood weighs school renovations; residents urge restraint

“We have beautiful old buildings. We know that, and we want to preserve them and pass them along to the next generation,’ Ramey said. “They continue to serve us well, but we have a responsibility to leave them better than we found them.”

The seven options mixed and matched a variety of proposals in different ways, but there are two big changes in some of the plans. One is construction of a new high school plus performing arts and gym space where Mack Hummon Stadium stands today, with a new football stadium being built just east where the baseball field is today.

The other big proposal in some project options is discontinuing use of the Lange School on Dorothy Lane and constructing a two-story early learning center between Smith Elementary and the Wright Library. The proposals include moving certain grade levels to new buildings.

RELATED: Oakwood voters renewed facilities levy in May

Finances were a major focus of the evening. Even the cheapest option the district listed had an estimated property tax cost of $264 per year for a $100,000 home, for 37 years. That renovation option would include extensive replacement of school heating, plumbing, lighting and electrical systems, as well as roofs, windows and more.

Several residents questioned the price tags, wondering if that level of investment was necessary for a district that is the highest academic performer in the region in their current 1920s-era buildings.

“I did ask for another option that, for now, that the bare minimum things are taken care of,” Oakwood parent Mayumi Hall said. “I think we’re trying to spend money that we don’t have. I don’t want the community to change. I don’t want to drive people away.”

RELATED: Oakwood High School No. 1 in Ohio on test scores

Ramey said the money could come from some mix of new bond or permanent improvement levies, private donors, or state facility funding (if Oakwood qualified and agreed to the strings that come with it). The listed price tags assume all local funding.

Other residents encouraged the school district to plan aggressively for future generations, increasing classroom size to state standards and adding space for performing arts and student collaboration.

“Some of these are band-aids to solve a problem, which we should definitely do at the bare minimum,” said Oakwood parent Sam Dorf. “But this is a great opportunity for us to really grow — to imagine the school rooms and learning spaces for the future.”

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Asked whether those bigger, more flexible classrooms really mattered when Oakwood students were already succeeding academically, school board member Cassie Darr said it would allow teachers to do more of the small-group and project-based work that colleges and employers are focusing on.

In small-group sessions, residents were concerned about potential loss of green space for new buildings, classroom size and student count, as well as traffic and parking issues.

Jill Aldineh, a vocal opponent of major changes, said with enrollment not projected to grow, significant spending is a mistake, especially with Oakwood tax rates already very high. She argued that the district has not been open enough about its plans and finances.

RELATED: Bond refinancing saves Oakwood schools $1 million

Oakwood parent James O’Hara had a different outlook, saying he loved that the district is presenting lots of data at public meetings and on its website.

“We need data, we need information, we need to be able to know what’s possible,” O’Hara said. “I love the setting we have here tonight, where we’re learning and being involved as a community, and we’re a part of it together.”

Ramey said the school district will have a town hall meeting about the various facilities options March 21 at Oakwood High School. Eventually, the school board will decide whether to put a levy or bond issue on the ballot, in November or some future election, and at what millage depending on community input.

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Northeastern to close, consolidate schools if bond fails

Published: Friday, March 16, 2018 @ 9:44 AM
Updated: Friday, March 16, 2018 @ 6:06 PM

            Rolling Hills Elementary School. Bill Lackey/Staff
Rolling Hills Elementary School. Bill Lackey/Staff

The Northeastern Local School Board of Education approved a contingency plan to consolidate the district’s two high schools and close Rolling Hills Elementary School should voters in May again reject a $79 million bond issue for new schools.

The district is asking voters for a bond issue to build two new pre-k through 12th grade schools in the district, one on the Kenton Ridge High School side and the other on the Northeastern High School side. The state has offered to pay about $40 million for the schools, making the total cost of the project about $119 million.

RELATED: Northeastern bond issue for $117M new schools rejected

Having a backup plan is necessary, Northeastern Local Schools Superintendent John Kronour said.

“The district faces a number of upcoming facilities expenses to address problems in the aging school buildings, such as leaking roofs, poor air quality, heating and air conditioning regulation, plumbing problems, and other issues,” he said.

The contingency plan calls for closing Rolling Hills Elementary, using South Vienna and Northridge as preschool through fifth-grade elementary buildings, converting Kenton Ridge into a middle school for all sixth- through eighth-grade students and making Northeastern High School the only high school in the district.

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“By eliminating one building, the district will reduce necessary repairs in the future and be able to concentrate limited funds available for facilities upgrades toward the remaining four buildings,” Kronour said.

The Springfield News-Sun will update this article when more information is available.


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This former beloved amusement park is becoming one of the most unique facilities in the area

Published: Saturday, March 17, 2018 @ 9:00 AM

            The Butler Tech adult education campus will move to a new location along Ohio 4 in the former Couch’s Campers building in Monroe later this year. The new campus will be call the Butler Tech LeSourdsville Campus. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF
The Butler Tech adult education campus will move to a new location along Ohio 4 in the former Couch’s Campers building in Monroe later this year. The new campus will be call the Butler Tech LeSourdsville Campus. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

Soon, adults will be learning new work careers at a beloved former amusement park where generations played.

Work has begun on creating a $3 million Butler Tech adult education campus on 36 acres on what used to be part of the famed LeSourdsville Lake Amusement Park in Monroe.

STORY & VIDEO: A look back at the former LeSourdsville Lake Amusement Park

The park opened in 1922 and was located along Ohio Route 4 just south of the State Route 63 interchange. Until it closed in 1999, it was last century’s version of a Kings Island, drawing generations of families over the decades.

And the bright lights that once shone in the adjacent park are now being replaced by the sparks of welding torches as workers prepare almost two dozen classrooms inside a 27,000 square-foot former recreational vehicle dealership adjacent to LeSourdsville’s former entrance.

Another 13,000-square-foot, high-bay building of the RV dealership will also be converted into a learning area for manufacturing careers.

“The name of the campus is Butler Tech’s LeSourdsville campus to honor the history,” said Scott Palmer, executive director of adult education for the county-wide career school system.

“I’ve heard a lot of excitement about this project and a lot of curiosity … that will really help us fill our classes,” said Palmer.

Construction is scheduled to be done in July with adult career training classes starting August, he said.

The new LeSourdsville Campus will be the home to Butler Tech’s Adult Education office, including student services and financial aid, healthcare and manufacturing programs.

Classes in the two buildings will include welding, advanced manufacturing, heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration and industrial maintenance. Also offered on campus will be ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages), adult literacy classes and GED preparation.

Also, healthcare programs will include medical assisting, medical billing and coding, phlebotomy, practical nursing and nurse aide training.

Butler Tech purchased the 36 acres in February 2017, and the city of Monroe plans to convert the long-abandoned LeSourdsville – which in the last years of its operation was renamed “Americana” Amusement Park - into a nature park of 50-plus acres to be named the Monroe Bicentennial Commons.

MORE: Monroe agrees on design of new park entrance road at former LeSourdsville Lake Amusement Park

City plans for the former amusement park property include an extension of the Great Miami River Recreation Trail bike path, which covers about half of the distance within the city limits.

Jennifer Seifert, adult education marketing coordinator for Butler Tech, said the new campus allows “us to serve more adult students and educate them in career fields that are in demand in the area.”

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Judge could rule Friday in Dayton school task force open meetings case

Published: Thursday, March 15, 2018 @ 6:29 PM

            Dayton Public Schools Acting Superintendent Dr. Elizabeth Lolli is sworn in Thursday during a hearing in the courtroom of Montgomery County Judge Richard Skelton. STAFF/MARK GOKAVI
Dayton Public Schools Acting Superintendent Dr. Elizabeth Lolli is sworn in Thursday during a hearing in the courtroom of Montgomery County Judge Richard Skelton. STAFF/MARK GOKAVI

A Montgomery County Common Pleas Court judge heard testimony and arguments as part of the lawsuit brought by a Dayton resident who alleges that a joint city and Dayton Public Schools task force studying school facilities violated Ohio’s Open Meetings Act.

The suit was filed by David Esrati, who filed it without an attorney. Esrati contends he was not allowed to attend a February bus tour of Dayton schools during which task force members went into schools until district attorneys advised them to cancel remaining stops.

DPS attorney Brian Wildermuth argued that the task force was not a public body and, therefore, not subject to the Open Meetings Act.

MORE: Dayton, OHSAA in war of words after Dunbar legal victory

Judge Richard Skelton said Thursday he would consider what he heard and review videos submitted by Esrati, adding that he would “determine where I think we’re headed and how before I do anything else.”

Skelton said he may reach a decision Friday and asked Wildermuth if a planned Tuesday meeting for the Dayton Board of Education could be pushed back. Wildermuth said he didn’t have the authority to do that and objected to Thursday’s hearing taking place.

Skelton rejected Wildermuth’s motion to dismiss the case with prejudice.

MORE: Dayton school board praises Lolli, but quiet about superintendent choice

Esrati questioned Dayton Public Schools Acting Superintendent Elizabeth Lolli and also was cross-examined by Wildermuth during the nearly 2½-hour, wide-ranging hearing.

Esrati asked why he was not allowed to go into schools while certain media outlets were — without cameras, purportedly to protect student identities, he said. Lolli said she didn’t consider Esrati a media member.

Esrati disagreed with that assessment. He said that regardless, “The open records law grants access to everybody. They missed that part.”

Esrati submitted for evidence emails he requested from Dayton Public Schools about the task force’s formation and videos of the day he tried to go on the bus tour plus news stories.

Wildermuth and Dayton city attorney John Musto reserved the right to object to some of Esrati’s submissions. Wildermuth also submitted items for evidence with no objection.

MORE: Dayton plan would close elementary school, study closing high school

Skelton repeatedly told Esrati he was giving leeway because the plaintiff wasn’t an attorney. Skelton sustained several defense objections for questions that were deemed not relevant.

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How Middletown’s newest school is progressing, and what it will offer students

Published: Thursday, March 15, 2018 @ 4:00 AM

$96 million school renovation and construction project in Middletown

The new school rising from construction dust on Middletown’s high school campus is striking for both architectural and educational reasons.

The new Middletown Middle School, which is part of the massive $96 million transformation of the Middletown High School campus, is on schedule and budget, said school officials.

MORE: See drone video from high over new Middletown schools’ construction sites

Wings of the new school are separated into seventh and eighth grades and include shared learning pods outside of classrooms designed to better engage students, said George Long, business manager for the school system.

All the work on the new, 135,000-square-foot middle school will be completed by the first day of classes for the 2018-19 school year.

Simultaneously, renovation and expansion work at the adjacent high school is proceeding, and together the two projects comprise the largest school construction enterprise in the city school system’s history.

“Things are moving along, with no major hurdles,” said Long over the din of interior finishing work now being done by work crews in the middle school.

MORE: New Middletown Middle School, high school construction begins

The district’s current Vail Middle School, which will close after this school year, is the former Middletown High School and opened in 1923. It is the oldest school building in the county.

“The biggest difference here is that we teach differently than we do at the high school,” said Long, referring to the learning pod infrastructure in each wing of the middle school.

“It’s a teaming concept and students will stay in their team area for most of the school day. All of their core classes happen in a six-classroom pod so they are not walking from one end of the building to the other,” he said.

George Long, business manager for Middletown Schools, shows off one of the new learning pods between classrooms at the new Middletown Middle School now under construction.(Staff Writer)

Moreover, the teachers in those pods work together in a team structure that better allows the instructors to modify learning pace and subject matters to individual students who may be lagging academically and working ahead of their classmates.

Middletown Schools Superintendent Marlon Styles Jr. said the new school design “gives our students access to innovative learning spaces and it allows us to start redefining how we educate students.”

“Our hallways will function as extended learning areas and will allow us to invest in innovative practices such as maker learning. This new start-of-the-art facility will serve as a source of inspiration for our Middie Modernization Movement,” said Styles, referring to the campaign he started shortly after starting work for the district in August.

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