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Firelands puts bond issue on ballot

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AMHERST — Firelands Schools will seek voter approval of a 4.28-mill bond issue in November to build a new high school.

The bond issue, unanimously approved by the school board July 17, would cost homeowners $12.48 per month for a $100,000 home for 36 years.

If approved, the bond issue will be used to fund the district’s plan to move out of its building at 152 W. Main Street and give it back to the community. The new building would house students in grades nine to 12, and the current high school would become a middle school for students from grades six to eight.

“At 108 year old, South Amherst Middle School is no longer effectively providing safe, secure and productive spaces for teaching and learning,” the school said in a news release.

The new building will be built on district-owned property and will be connected to the current high school on Vermilion Road in Henrietta Township. The new building also will serve as the main entrance and administrative area for all students in grades six to 12. The school also will add a central kitchen and cafeteria if the bond issue is approved.

On July 12, the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission approved the district’s master plan and the district locked in the state’s contribution of $5.2 million once the district’s local share of $24.4 million would be approved by voters.

This will be the district’s fourth attempt in passing a levy or bond issue for funding. The first levy defeat was in November 2015, which Superintendent Mike Von Gunten attributed to cost.

It failed again in March 2016 and the board then proposed a single ballot question with two parts — a 3.61-mill property tax and 0.25 percent income tax in August 2016, which also failed.

After those failures, the district spent 2017 and 2018 listening to public opinion. The school sent a survey to 300 residents in the district who were registered to vote in late January. The survey asked questions about what they would or wouldn’t support in improving the school’s facilities. Von Gunten said the survey shows a large split between residents wanting to improve the district and being able to financially support it.

The school also created an advisory committee that included more than 40 community members, parents and staff to advise the Board of Education on a new plan to address the district’s facility needs.

The master plan has a second phase to build a new kindergarten-to-eighth-grade school, but it had no deadline like the first phase in an agreement with the OFCC for funding.

Should the levy be approved, the new high school will open for the start of the 2021-22 school year.

Contact Bruce Walton at 329-7123 or bwalton@chroniclet.com. Follow him on Facebook @BWalton440 or on Twitter @BruceWalton.


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