After pulling new construction plans off the ballot — twice — Oberlin educators are looking at closing at least one building.
Superintendent David Hall told board members Sept. 13 that he plans to form a committee of residents, school administrators, faculty, and a consultant to determine how best to consolidate.
Its 10 to 12 members will meet biweekly and first report to board members Nov. 15.
Board vice president Anne Schaum said creativity and fresh perspective is needed on the issue. “So we’re not handcuffed by the buildings like we think we are,” she said.
Board members preferred building a $35.5 million pre-kindergarten through 12th grade school building to replace the district’s aging schools, saying it would be more cost-effective in the long term.
But under pressure in June from residents concerned about the cost of the new school, they dropped putting the proposal on the November ballot.
The board previously estimated renovating Eastwood and Prospect Elementary schools and Langston Middle School would cost between $15 million and $43 million to meet Ohio Facilities Construction Commission standards. The estimate didn’t include renovating Oberlin High School. Consolidation from four to three buildings would save $340,000 annually, board members previously said.
Renovation after demolishing Eastwood or Prospect would cost between $12 million and $35 million to meet commission standards. Board members were told in April that interest has been expressed by two developers in converting Eastwood into elderly or fixed-income housing.
There has been no interest in Prospect. One option could be razing it and converting it into single-family lots.
Board president Ken Stanley said consolidation must improve education. “(It’s) not how many rooms are we going to have to squeeze into, but what are we going do to make this a better district,” he said.
Teachers union president Robin Diedrick said board members should hire a consultant with extensive knowledge of school architecture and construction because teaching in the buildings is challenging due to their age and the sometimes cramped classrooms.
“It seems like we could spin our wheels for a very long time on this unless we really go into this with some know-how,” said Diedrick, president of the 90-member Oberlin Ohio Education Association. “We’ve spun wheels long enough.”
Board members also discussed repairs made and repairs needed at the schools. Eastwood needs roof repairs and has had $8,810 in boiler repairs done. Prospect has had $22,000 in gym repairs done. Langston had $14,258 in electrical repairs done. The high school has had $8,250 in asphalt paving and needs roof and classroom window repairs.
In other business, board members heard an energy savings presentation from Patrick O’Neill Jr., owner of Energy Planners Company. O’Neill did a free audit of the schools and said the costs for LED lighting installations by his company would be recouped within three years through electricity savings.
“The idea is to start one project and have the savings on that project pay for the next project,” he said. “It’s a cascading effect over a period of time.”
O’Neill said Eastwood improvements would cost $25,838. At Langston, it would cost $68,778. Prospect would cost $28,593, and the high school would cost $66,377.
If board members decide to do the project, they would have to put it out to bid. Stanley said the investment makes sense given the long-term savings.
An Ohio law would allow the district to borrow money for the improvements from the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission rather than having to put an issue on the ballot.
Evan Goodenow can be reached at 440-775-1611 or @GoodenowNews on Twitter.