ELYRIA — Superintendent Tom Jama admitted Monday that he was not originally sold on the idea of campus schools.
He is a traditionalist who favors neighborhood schools, he said.
But the concept won him over after hearing about how campus schools save money, are more efficient to operate and can be constructed in a way to allow younger and older students to be in the same place, but not the same space.
Looking at Hubbard Schools in Trumbull County as a example, Jama said he is able to visualize how separate entrances, separate student drop-off and pick-up areas and separate administrative, cafeteria and gymnasium spaces can give one building two distinct schools.
“I wasn’t sure how the district would respond to a K-8 campus-style school, but it will be better for students than five new elementary schools or seven, like we have now,” he said.
The Elyria Boys and Girls Club was the first stop Monday on the Elyria Schools community tour to have conversations about the planned bond issue for November. There, Jama donned his signature block E hat, geared up a PowerPoint presentation and pulled a chair close for an informal talk with a small group of parents. He was there to discuss the district’s building plan — three schools that combine elementary and middle schools and two more traditional elementary schools. Currently, with a configuration of 11 schools, Elyria wants to reduce its footprint down to six schools including Elyria High School, which is less than five years old.
“These buildings are going to be a catalyst for growth for this city,” Jama said. “Our high school was once rated the worst condition in the state and the most in need of replacement. Now, it is a showcase the entire community can be proud of.”
Jama said the financial details of the project favor taxpayers.
Elyria High was constructed after a bond issue was passed pledging 61 percent of the cost from Elyria taxpayers. Now, the state is offered to reverse the deal in a two-for-one offer of 67 percent in construction aid.
“But the state has also said we can’t get any money to do work on buildings as it would cost too much money to renovate, repair and bring the buildings up to date,” Jama said.
The small group of parents and residents in the room mostly listened, asked a few questions and offered feedback that seemed favorable.
When Jama talked about how the current schools were outdated and old — most with the electrical, heating and cooling systems exposed — it was resident Elizabeth Osborne who said, “and way out of code.”
Osborne lives near Elyria High School. She liked the idea of moving to campus schools.
A total $135 million construction project, resident Roger Johnston said he would like to see more work go toward locals. He also was concerned about the length of the bond issue — currently about 35 years to keep the cost to less than $11 per month additional for most property taxpayers.
“We will push it, but the state isn’t concerned about local labor like we are,” said former Superintendent Paul Rigda, who is consulting in the project.
“But the state money is tax money. It’s going to go somewhere,” Jama added. “Let’s get it back to Elyria.”
Contact Lisa Roberson at 329-7121
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