ELYRIA — A pared-down master plan for Elyria Schools will see five new elementary and middle schools — built smaller and faster than previously planned.
The Ohio Facilities Construction Commission notified school officials that the revised master plan was accepted.
“We were informed that the OFCC passed a resolution so we can build five schools in the city of Elyria,” said Superintendent Tom Jama. “This puts us back on track for five schools. This will not be the same school plan. We had to cut some square footage and move up the timeline, but we are happy to say we are back on track.”
District officials announced the update Wednesday during a school board meeting attended by a fraction of the residents who came out in droves two months ago when news broke that Elyria Schools could change the master plan. Residents reacted to the March announcement that the five-school plan could possibly shrink to three campus-style buildings with concern and a call for school officials to go back to the drawing board.
The most vocal outcry came from the residents on the city’s south side who said they would not accept a plan that did not include an elementary school in the neighborhood. Franklin Elementary School now serves as a de facto community center for many of the families on the south side. They turn to the school for computer training, food assistance and after-school activities.
Mentoring and community service organization operate several programs from the school to aid students in the neighborhood. From online petitions to emergency ward meetings, residents organized quickly behind the cause.
Elyria Councilman Marcus Madison, D-5th Ward, said the work to keep a school in the neighborhood has ignited the civic passions of residents.
“The residents plan to continue their support for the five-school plan solution and are willing to support the Elyria School District and the city in any way possible,” he said. “I thank the residents for their energy, effort and passion as we continue to work toward the completion of the project. I thank the school board for listening and their willingness to work with concerned residents and parents.”
Board president Kevin Brubaker emerged as a champion of keeping the building plan on course with what voters approved in a November bond issue. He did not attend Wednesday’s meeting because of a rescheduled Elyria High School baseball game in which his son was playing.
When reached later in the evening, Brubaker said the update was the best news for the district.
“I am really appreciative that the state did the right thing and glad that the school board did the right thing because the citizens and residents of Elyria voted on five schools and that is what they deserve,” he said.
Jama’s announcement Wednesday garnered cheers and applause from the audience.
“The community spoke and the board listened,” Jama said. “You wanted five schools, and we worked it out with a lot of hard work and energy to get the job done.”
The OFCC informed school officials two months ago that the project was at least $3 million over budget and climbing. A proposal to shrink the plan emerged as an option as additional state funding was not available to cover the over runs.
“It was the OFCC that came to us — and they are paying $87 million — to let us know we were over budget,” said school board member Greg Elek. “The school board and Dr. Jama were never interested in this plan.”
This revised plan comes after school officials said they cut everything possible and found every conceivable savings — including the city of Elyria reduction in Building Department fees — to achieve the goal of five new schools for the district’s preschool through eighth-grade students.
Elek said the board will ink contracts to lock in the costs in July.
In the meantime, the district is moving forward.
Jama said the district will hold ceremonial groundbreaking events for the new McKinley Elementary School to be built on the site of the former Hamilton school and the new Ely Elementary School to be built at its current location in the coming weeks.
Elek offered residents additional good news Wednesday in saying that the multisports athletic complex is coming in under budget and on time. The facility should be ready for the high school’s first home football game Aug. 24.
The $14 million stadium project is funded completely with local tax dollars.
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