ELYRIA — A vastly different Elyria Schools, one with a facility footprint with more campus-style buildings and a new athletic stadium, is being called the right plan for voters to see in November.
On Wednesday night, school board members heard the final recommendations from the district’s master plan committee of what should make up the November bond issue and the proposed future configuration of buildings if the issue passes.
The plan calls for the district to reduce its elementary and middle schools from the current make-up of seven elementary schools and three middle schools to five buildings — two kindergarten through fourth grade schools, two kindergarten through eighth grade schools and one preschool through eighth grade school.
Master plan recommendations along with the cost ...
- New elementary school for grades K-4: $13,574,925
- New elementary school for grades K-4: $14,189,717
- New K-8 campus: $31,859,997
- New preschool to eighth grade campus: $31,120,600
- New K-8 campus: $20,885,666
- Abatement and demolition: $7,723,066
- Total: $119,353,971
- Minus state contribution at 67 percent: $79,967,161
- Total local share for schools only: $39,386,810
- Add in local options*: $20,600,000
- Total local contribution: $59,986,810
*Preschool, flooring in high traffic areas, additional learning spaces, student and family support spaces, contingency fund for unforeseen expenses and stadium complex.
Source: Elyria Schools
It’s a switch from the initial plan board members seemed to favor earlier this year that focused on a more traditional building makeup. However, Superintendent Tom Jama, who has been on the road listening to residents’ thoughts about the district’s plans, said many teachers and community members are warming to the idea of campus-style buildings.
As such, three of the larger buildings are now in the plans, bringing young and older students together at central locations in addition to two more traditional elementary schools.
Facilities for multiple grades are preferred for many reasons, said former Superintendent Paul Rigda, back in Elyria as a consultant on the district’s master plan.
It emphasizes the idea of economy of scale with the heating, water, cooling and building systems while maintaining age-appropriate spaces and shared common areas.
“Not only is it a good educational option, but you can save about a $1.5 million dollars,” Rigda said.
Wednesday’s meeting was informational only. Board members will vote on the recommendations April 6 with a deadline to submit the master plan to the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission four days later.
“Just in discussion on the street and with people I know, people in Elyria are very excited about this, said board member Jim Backs. “We have a lot of information in front of us and have a big decision to make.”
How and where
With Elyria High School already in place, a $70 million jewel in the city thanks to the passage of a 2007 bond issue, the district began thinking of new elementary and middle schools more than a year ago.
Rigda said the process began in spring 2015, when the district learned the state wanted to once again help Elyria build new schools. This time the offer is 67 percent of construction cost.
“That seemed too good to pass up,” Rigda said. “I was then-superintendent, so I brought it to the board and they said go for it.”
Enrollment projections — forecasted out to the 2025-26 school year when it is calculated that 5,484 preschool through 12th-grade students will be in Elyria — played a huge factor in the plan. However, it was the enrollment estimate of the 2020-21 school year for 5,758 students that the state used to determine how much learning space is needed in the city.
Rigda said it is important to look at the numbers because student numbers drive square footage and square footage drives dollars.
“Let’s just embrace this and build accordingly, outfitting the schools for the needs of the city,” Rigda said.
The target areas for the schools are all parcels the district currently owns. There will likely be no need to acquire and demolition homes like what happened with Elyria High. Building one is a new elementary school at Hamilton School site, where there is 4.5 acres.
Building two is a new elementary school at the Ely School site, where there is 9 acres.
Building three is a new K-8 campus at the Eastern Heights Middle School site, where there is 24 acres.
Building four is a new preschool to eighth grade campus at the Pioneer Field site off Abbe Road, where there is 15 acres of land.
Building five is a new K-8 campus at the Griswold Road site, where there is 76 acres of land.
Add in abatement and demolition cost for the old and unused buildings in the district and the local cost for new school is close to $40 million. The state’s contribution is nearly $80 million for a nearly $120 million building plan.
However, a basic school plan is not what Elyria voters will vote on in November.
The district could have stuck with the ABCs of what the state is willing to help fund, but just as the locally funded initiatives helped make Elyria High the showplace students use today, the district wants special touches added to this project.
Jama said it’s not just the high school’s Performing Arts Center voters funded as a locally funded initiative, or LFI, nearly nine years ago. Local dollars paid for the building’s polished concrete and terrazzo flooring.
The proposed LFIs of this project include $1.5 million for preschool space, which will open the option up to every Elyria child, $1.5 million for upgraded flooring in high traffic area, $3.6 million for additional learning spaces geared toward technology and $1.7 million for additional student and family support spaces.
However, the most talked about local option voters will see focuses on the student athletes of tomorrow — a proposed $9.3 million multisports complex at the site of the current Ely Stadium.
“Our stadium today sits with many, many issues, due to age and circumstances of daily wear and tear,” Jama said. “It’s something that our students deserve much, much better.”
While the district aims to build the entire sports complex in phases, it’s just phase one — the new stadium segment — that is getting a plug for November. Key features include new synthetic turf, an all-weather polyurethane track, new main entry gate and plaza, upgraded home and visitor bleachers and press box and a field house for locker rooms, weight/fitness room, trainer’s room, athletic office, band storage, home restrooms and concession booth and ticket booth.
“This phase is just the beginning,” Jama said. “How long it will take to get through the entire process will be determined by how fast we get in private donations and additional dollars.”
Elek said the local investment would be the catalyst used to seek private donations.
“It gives us the ability to go out and get more dollars from private donors and finish the rest of the project by saying we have $9 million,” Elek said. “We want to get started on that pretty quickly.”
The entire complex is estimated at a cost of $13.5 million.
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