ELYRIA — It started with Elyria High School in 2007.
That year, Elyria voters decided that a century-old high school was not where the city’s most senior students should learn. With moldy walls, dank classrooms and leaking ceilings, state officials once called Elyria High the school building most in need of replacement in the state and voters answered that sad designation with a bond issue to build a new $70 million facility.
On Tuesday, voters made the same decision to rebuild for its youngest students with the passage of Issue 23, Elyria Schools’ 3.86-mill, 35-year bond issue. Roughly $140 million in state and local revenue will flow into the school district to fund a building plan that will break ground in less than a year.
According to unofficial election results, Issue 23 passed, 10,847 to 8,431 votes, or 56 percent to 44 percent.
The win guarantees a soon-to-be vastly different Elyria Schools, one with a facility footprint with more campus-style buildings and a new athletic stadium.
“It will be transformational for the city,” Mayor Holly Brinda said.
It was just after 10 p.m. Tuesday when Elyria Schools Superintendent Tom Jama climbed atop a chair to loudly thank the crowd of supporters gathered for a watch party at Smitty’s Place. It was not the dancing on the tables former Superintendent Paul Rigda and former school board member Evelyn France did nine years ago, but it pulled the crowd together for a round of applause.
“Thank you for everything you have done for the Elyria Schools and for the kids of Elyria. We are going to have new buildings. This is unbelievable,” Jama said to start a short speech. “It took an entire team to do this … Everyone in this community pulled together — tonight is your night.”
Jama said the victory doesn’t stop the work. Now, the district will have to work with the Ohio School Facilities Commission to pick an architect and ready the district for construction. The timeline includes breaking ground in 10 to 12 months.
The master plan calls for the district to reduce its footprint from 11 to five schools and build a new football stadium.
This includes one preschool-through-grade-eight campus at the Pioneer Field site on Abbe Road; one kindergarten-through-grade-eight campus on the site of the existing Eastern Heights Middle School on Garford Avenue; one kindergarten-through-grade-eight campus on the site of the existing Crestwood Elementary School/former Elyria West High School in Elyria Township; one kindergarten-through-grade-four elementary school on the site of the existing Ely Elementary School on Gulf Road and one kindergarten-through-grade-four elementary school at the existing Hamilton Elementary School site on Middle Avenue.
The district began formulating a plan for new elementary and middle schools more than a year ago. The process began in spring 2015 when the district learned the state wanted to once again help Elyria build new schools.
But unlike the 37 percent state share that helped build Elyria High, this new plan comes with 67 percent funding from the state, which was a huge selling point for school officials.
Parents, residents and alumni came out in full force to back the schools’ plan.
“I have three kids currently in school and another that will be in preschool in another year and a half,” said 36-year-old Brian Neal of Harvard Avenue. “But this is not just for my kids. This is for their friends and all other kids, too.”
Neal said the 11 to five school reconfiguration will work for the city because it will still be convenient for most parents with the chosen locations.
Set to graduate in May, Jace Cudlin, 19, of Denison Avenue, said the time was now to rebuild the rest of the district.
“My school is really a beautiful place,” Cudlin said.
Connie Alicea, 59, of Lincoln Court, said she has been a supporter of the district for years. As the child of a teacher, she said she has been exposed to the needs in education as a child.
“I’m about the schools and education,” said 37-year-old Jermey Turner, of Cambridge Avenue, who attended Elyria High before the renovations. “My kids go to Elyria High School, and I tell them they have no idea how good they have it.”
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