This story has been edited to reflect the following corrections: The south side elementary school will be called Hamilton, and will open for the 2020-21 school year.
ELYRIA — Weather-permitting, Elyrians should see construction crews putting up the bones of two of their new school buildings by the end of the winter.
The first two of the five new Elyria City Schools under construction over the next two years are Ely Elementary School and the Northwood Campus, for children in preschool through eighth grade. Ground was broken for the new Ely Elementary School in June and for the Northwood Campus in November 2017.
The new Ely school is for children in kindergarten through fourth grade and will rise on same site on Gulf Road where the current building has stood since 1921. The Northwood Campus is going up in place of Pioneer Field and the Spring Valley school on North Abbe Road.
Paul Rigda, former Elyria City Schools superintendent and now Board of Education representative on the new schools project, said construction crews and school officials are “more or less waiting for weather to break.”
If the weather doesn’t get any worse than it has been, he said, observers might soon see structural steel and block walls going up.
When school district voters passed Issue 23 in November 2016, they gave their OK to a 3.86-mill, 35-year bond issue to pay one-third of the $140 million building project. The state put up the other two-thirds of the cost.
Rigda, who retired in 2015 and oversaw the passage of Issue 7 in 2007 that resulted in Elyria getting a new high school, said his job now is to be the Board of Education’s representative: Oversee the budget of the project, work with the architect, contractors and the state.
As a veteran of school construction projects, he encouraged citizens to be patient, as there is “a whole lot more going on behind the scenes” at a construction site than meets the eye. By the end of the winter, the frames of the new schools should be rising from the dirt.
“There’s a lot of stuff you can’t see under the ground. The (concrete) pad has been laid out, and pretty soon I’d say — weather permitting — you could see these buildings go vertical,” Rigda said. “Within the next two to three months, you’ll see a lot of concrete blocks, steel and bricks.”
Some delays can be attributed to what can’t be seen from above: “The older the part of the city you’re building in, the more you find underground. The stuff you don’t find on maps,” like the basements or foundations of long-demolished houses, old utility lines or other surprises, Rigda said.
Three of the five new schools are scheduled to open by the start of the 2020-21 school year, he said, including Hamilton Elementary School. The new Eastern Heights and Westwood campus complexes are scheduled to open the following year.
“The new schedule looks, this time, doable and on-budget,” Rigda said. “We found a way to work with the state to do what we can with our money. It’s nice when you can come up with solutions to save your taxpayers money.”
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