A bond issue for a $16.5 million new pre-K through fifth grade school replacing Eastwood and Prospect elementaries may yet wind up on the November ballot.
While no decision has been made, Oberlin Schools superintendent David Hall said Thursday that the board of education is “leaning toward November” when high turnout is expected for the presidential election.
School officials had been considering placing the approximately 5-mill issue on the last November’s ballot. But Hall — a former Lorain Schools assistant superintendent hired in July — wanted to wait until gathering support for passage of two renewal levies.
Officials hope enthusiasm for new schools is on par with the overwhelming support for the levies, which passed March 15.
Issue 25, a 5.05-mill, five-year renewal levy raising $940,000 annually for daily operations and instruction costs, passed by a 2,685 to 1,130 vote margin, 70 percent to 30 percent, according to unofficial results from the Lorain County Board of Elections. It costs the owner of a $100,000 home $175 yearly.
Issue 26, a 2-mill, five-year levy raising $371,064 annually for purchases such as books, buses, and infrastructure improvements, passed by a 2,742 to 1,085 vote margin, 72 percent to 28 percent. It costs the owner of a $100,000 home $70 annually.
Hall and board members at their March 16 meeting thanked voters. Ken Stanley, board president, noted the levies passed decisively even in districts that weren’t home to many voters with school children. “That’s pretty strong support,” Stanley said.
Besides replacing Eastwood and Prospect, board members are also considering a new school to replace Langston Middle School and Oberlin High School if the first bond issue passes.
The proposals, which have been discussed since 2012, come as enrollment in the 1,000-student school district is declining. There were about 1,100 students in the district in 2005.
While enrollment is down, board members say new schools are more cost effective than maintaining the current schools. A 2013 study for the district done by Stantec, a Canadian architectural and engineering company, estimated a $45.6 million cost for replacing all four buildings on site.
The study said renovating each building would be two-thirds the cost of building anew and noted that the Ohio School Facilities Commission will not co-fund renovations if the cost is two-thirds of building anew.
The study said the buildings have been well-maintained, but are energy inefficient due to their age. Eastwood and Prospect were built in 1955 and 1960 respectively. Langston was built in 1923 and Oberlin High was built in 1960.
Board member Barry Richard, a member of the bond committee, said feedback from staff indicates merging Eastwood and Prospect would improve academics, teacher communication, and allow for technology upgrades. Richard said the schools are too big for the amount of students they house. “Overhead is really high,” he said.
A timeline on the issue calls for board votes at their May 24 and June 28 meetings. If approved, the deadline for the issue to be sent to the the Lorain County auditor’s office for certification for ballot placement is July 11.
Hall emphasized no decisions would be made until community input forums are held in the next couple of months. “We want to make sure it’s the right thing to do,” he said.
Evan Goodenow can be reached at 440-775-1611 GoodenowNews on Twitter.