Five options for new Oberlin school construction under review

By Laurie Hamame -



After pulling new school construction plans off the ballot twice in recent years, Oberlin school board members are now looking to revisit renovation and consolidation proposals.

The board approved $13,500 for ThenDesign Architecture to complete a facilities assessment on the district’s aging buildings.

A cost evaluation was completed in November by the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission, but the board hired the Willoughby, Ohio-based firm to verify the state’s numbers.

If the cost of renovations is greater than two-thirds the cost of building a new school, the commission will provide financial help.

All four of Oberlin’s schools are eligible for replacement.

Student enrollment and the property wealth of a district go into determining just how much cash the OFCC approves for construction. To acquire funding, the district must follow the commission’s building code and follow one of two programs.

The Classroom Facilities Assistance Program is based on the assessed property valuation per student, which determines the state and local share of the facilities project.

It seeks to address the entire facility needs of a district from kindergarten through 12th grade.

The Expedited Local Partnership Program is designed to give districts that are estimated to be more than two years away from eligibility for state assistance the opportunity to proceed with portions of their project.

For example, Oberlin could opt to move forward with a portion of its master plan funded through local efforts — either new construction or major renovation — and would later be reimbursed when it becomes eligible for funding under CFAP.

The earliest CFAP offer is estimated to be in July 2019. About 60 districts are ahead of Oberlin on the state’s funding list.

An ELPP project could begin sooner and presents a first ballot opportunity in November.

Steve Roca, a representative from the OFCC, presented five master plan draft options developed in November.

The first option is to build a new PK-12 building and abate and demolish Eastwood and Prospect Elementary schools, Langston Middle School, and Oberlin High School.

The co-funded cost is $34.2 million with local taxpayers covering $27 million of that total.

A single building is less expensive than two buildings and over time it would cost less operationally, Roca said. Enrollment across the state is declining, which is one reason the OFCC is favoring single-building construction plans.

Option two includes new PK-5 and 6-12 buildings. The local share increases to $30.4 million. To be eligible for funding, the state requires that every building has 350 students, which means Oberlin could not have more than two schools.

Option three is to renovate the high school for grades five to 12 and renovate Prospect for prekindergarten through fourth grades. The local share is estimated to be $23 million.

Option four is to renovate the high school for grades six to 12 and renovate Langston for prekindergarten through fifth. The local share would be $26.1 million.

Option five is to renovate the high school for grades six to 12 and to build a new PK-5 elementary building. The local share would be $24.8 million.

District operations manager Dan DeNicola said he hopes to have ThenDesign Architecture’s assessment by the Oberlin board of education’s March 13 study session.

He said the district’s current enrollment numbers don’t support multiple buildings unless the board wants to spend more money.

“Are the buildings going to fall down tomorrow? Probably not,” he said, comparing renovations to fixing an aging car. “Is purchasing a new transmission worth the cost or would you have saved money if you just bought a new car?”

Laurie Hamame can be reached at 440-775-1611 or @HamameNews on Twitter.


By Laurie Hamame