ELYRIA — Elyria Schools could be affected by a moratorium Gov. John Kasich signed into law that gives school districts a one-year reprieve on a relatively new building code requirement that new schools have storm shelters capable of withstanding F5 tornadoes.
State Sen. Gayle Manning, R-North Ridgeville, and state Rep. Nathan Manning, R-North Ridgeville, pushed the legislation forward after hearing of Elyria’s plight and how the requirement along with higher construction costs impacted the district’s construction budget.
In a letter to Superintendent Tom Jama dated Wednesday, David Williamson, executive director of the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission, said the decision will affect Elyria’s construction program.
“On June 29, 2018, Governor John R. Kasich signed Substitute House Bill 21, which will affect our school construction program with your district,” Williamson wrote. “…While the law does not take effect until Sept. 28, 2018, we are reaching out now to affected districts. In circumstances where a storm shelter is no longer required by code, the district has the option to proceed with or without a storm shelter. OFCC will provide guidance for each district’s individual circumstance on how to move forward to support this local decision.”
District spokeswoman Amy Higgins did not return a call Friday for more information on Elyria’s multimillion-dollar project. The district plans to build five new schools for the district’s kindergarten through eighth-grade students.
Higgins previously said the district could not comment on how such a moratorium could affect Elyria, as its building plan is well underway and includes the required hardened areas in the design of the new buildings.
Friday night, Board President Kevin Brubaker said if the move allows for the removal of storm walls, it “saves us about $600,000.”
Nathan Manning said he and his mother worked to get the amendment into House Bill 21 to “help Elyria Schools as well as some other districts that were facing difficult circumstances.”
Districts are using reinforced gymnasiums to meet the storm shelter requirement by building them with 27-inch concrete walls that can shelter every student, teacher and staff member in place in the event of severe weather.
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