School board leans toward new elementary on November ballot

By Evan Goodenow -

New school construction options were outlined for board of education members at an April 12 study session.

The session is part of planning before board members decide whether to place an approximately 5-mill bond issue for a $16.5 million new pre-K through fifth grade school on the November ballot.

The school would replace the aging Eastwood and Prospect elementary schools and be located by Oberlin High School at 281 North Pleasant St.

Also being considered is a new sixth through 12th grade school replacing Langston Middle School and the high school. It would be connected to the new elementary school.

Cost of the new middle and high school hasn’t been publicly discussed. However, board member Barry Richard said constructing a pre-K through 12th grade building would cost about $3 million less than building two connected new schools.

“In a perfect world, we would like to build a pre-K through 12 all at one time,” said Richard, board liaison to the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission. “It would be architecturally easier to design and less expensive in the long run.”

But Richard said bond issue millage would be far higher on the November ballot.

Board members expect to have a financial breakdown at a May 10 study session.”There’s a lot of heavy thoughts we’d have to have in terms of how we make this decision,” Richard said.

Board president Ken Stanley said Tuesday that board members are leaning toward an elementary school bond issue in November, but a decision hasn’t been made. A final vote on the issue is scheduled for June 28 and the proposal must be filed with the Lorain County Auditor’s Office for certification by July 11.

A 2013 study estimated replacing all four buildings on one site would cost $45.6 million.

The study said renovating the existing schools would cost two-thirds the cost of building new. The commission will not co-fund renovations that are two-thirds or more the price of building new.

Study session speakers emphasized the long-term energy savings and educational value of new buildings rather than renovating. The goal is to obtain a Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design platinum rating from the U.S. Green Building Commission.

The platinum certification is the highest ranking a building can receive. Rating factors include energy performance, indoor environmental quality, use of sustainable buildings materials, and water efficiency.

Speakers said energy savings can be spent on arts, curriculum, extracurricular activities, and staff. Sean Hayes, executive director of the Oberlin Project, a city/Oberlin College environmental initiative, said a green building makes the district less vulnerable to volatile energy pricing.

“This is a rare and exciting opportunity,” he said. “By lowering the environmental impact, you’re freeing up those dollars.”

Rick Flood, chair of the district’s subcommittee examining building options, said interest has been expressed by two developers in converting Eastwood, built in 1955, into elderly or fixed-income housing. He said there has been no interest in Prospect, built in 1960. Flood said Prospect could be razed and converted to single-family lots.

Also discussed was construction of a $1.5 million field house located by the new schools with a turf field that could also be used by residents and Oberlin College students at night and on weekends.

“Getting more bang for our buck is what we’re looking for,” athletic director Ty Stillman said.

Evan Goodenow can be reached at 440-775-1611 or @GoodenowNews on Twitter.

By Evan Goodenow