ELYRIA — The school district unveiled drawings of the new Eastern Heights Campus at Wednesday’s Board of Education meeting.
Superintendent Ann Schloss went over the architectural renderings, after construction updates from Paul Rigda, former superintendent and the board’s liaison on its ongoing construction projects.
Eastern Heights Campus will be built on the current Eastern Heights Middle School property and house an elementary and middle school, separated by a “spine” that includes the cafeteria, clinic and gymnasiums. At more than 146,000 square feet, it will be the largest of the district’s three campus schools.
“The spine serves another purpose; to separate the two buildings,” she said. “So unless intentionally we want students to mix, they will not see each other for the most part.”
She said the elementary side will be off Prospect Avenue, and the building will have two entry/exit points, one at Cornell and one at Eastern Heights. The middle school will have a larger single entry/exit off Garford Avenue, similar to where the current school’s entrance is.
The middle school will include a courtyard and be the only two-story section of the campus.
“All of this is set up, again, like the Northwood Campus with 21st-century learning studios, with extended learning areas and very flexible areas,” Schloss said. “We have a eMakerspace; we have the fine arts wings for both elementary and middle school, so a lot of exciting opportunities for students in this set up.”
A groundbreaking for Eastern Heights is scheduled for late August.
Options for other buildings
The district plans to have open houses at the sites it will vacate soon, while it weighs its options for what to do with the seven buildings it no longer needs.
Those properties are Oakwood, McKinley, Prospect, Franklin, Windsor, Northwood and Crestwood schools. Crestwood Elementary is in Elyria Township; the rest are in the city.
Under Ohio Revised Code, public schools are required to offer buildings they wish to vacate to charter schools, but Rigda brought up another option for the district: It could enter into a land exchange with the city under a different section of ORC. He said a land exchange could be used for the district to acquire a 4-acre, city-owned parcel abutting the new Eastern Heights Campus, running between the school’s property and a nearby recreation center.
“That’s awfully close to the school and I think it would behoove the board to own that as a buffer for just safety and other concerns,” he said.
He added, “What this 3314.40 (Ohio Revised Code) is a provision that you can trade a school for that, or two or three. So if the city was interested in any of these properties for development, you could work a deal out with them in exchange for something as simple as that 4 acres or anything else.”
He suggested the district contact the city before offering its buildings to charters. Board president Greg Elek said he has fielded some interest in sites, including in McKinley Elementary from University Hospitals Elyria Medical Center.
Elek said the board is meeting with the city Monday to discuss the district’s options.
A charter has 60 days to announce its interest in a building. If a charter school does not show interest in the buildings, the schools can be put up for public bid, Rigda said.
Another option, albeit expensive, Rigda said, is to tear down the unused properties, plant grass and try to sell the properties that way.
Rigda said Ely, Northwood and Hamilton schools are all on schedule. Part of Phase I of the district’s construction project, they are slated to open August 2020.
At Ely Elementary, going up where Gulf Road and Ohio Street meet on the same property as the existing school, had its load-bearing walls and some of its roof up, and its cafeteria and gym are almost done. Its underground plumbing also is complete. It will be a kindergarten- through fourth-grade building.
At Northwood Campus, a preschool through eighth-grade campus at the site of Pioneer Field on Abbe Road, Rigda said a Windstream utility pole has continued to be a problem, but the electrical is nearly complete, and the building is starting to take shape.
At Hamilton Elementary, Rigda said crews are putting in the concrete foundation and waiting on the EPA to approve a stormwater retention system, which could take about six weeks. Crews are working to bring the land to grade as well. Hamilton will be at Middle Avenue and 13th Street and will house preschool through fourth grade.
Westwood Campus’ design is still in development. It, along with the Eastern Heights Campus, is scheduled to open in 2021 as part of Phase II of the district’s new construction.
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