Overheated classrooms, leaky roofs, unsealed windows, and a sometimes swampy playground were the low-lights Sept. 27 during a tour of Oberlin’s schools.
The tour was part of efforts by Oberlin board of education members to decide whether to close, consolidate, renovate, or replace school buildings.
Compared to the decrepit conditions of some inner-city schools nationally, these are in relatively good shape. But board members say maintenance costs are growing due to their age.
Langston Middle School was built in 1923, while Eastwood and Prospect elementary schools were built in 1955 and 1960, respectively. Oberlin High School was built in 1960.
Eastwood principal Susan Alig said her school has a spacious playground that swamps in rain or snow, making it unusable. Alig said she will apply for grant money to try to properly drain the play area when board members decide about the school’s fate.
“It’s an awesome space,” she said. “I hate that we can’t use it all year.”
Eastwood also lacks air conditioning and has an aging boiler. Classroom temperatures sometimes reach the upper 80s in the summer and in the winter due to overheating and poorly insulated windows. Window panes sometimes fall out and break and old doors warp and get stuck in the heat.
“We are asking our kids to be learning in this environment and we are asking our teachers to be working in this environment,” Alig said. “It’s not healthy.”
Prospect, which board members have previously discussed demolishing if consolidation occurs or a new school is built, has an aging boiler and needs roof repairs, said principal Jim Eibel. Classroom and cafeteria windows also need replaced.
Renovated in 1983 for about $3 million, Langston also has problems with its boiler, which was installed in 1958, said head custodian Bob Close. He said improperly sealed windows increase heating costs.
The tour didn’t include inspection of the high school due to time constraints. However, school officials have said it has a leaky roof and needs bathroom upgrades and an auditorium extension.
With enrollment in the 1,000-student school district decreasing — it’s down 14 percent since 2004 and predicted to drop another five percent by 2020 — some tour-goers questioned the wisdom of building a new school.
Nevertheless, Robin Diedrick, who taught at Prospect for 28 years before moving to Langston this year, said resources and space could be used more efficiently with one school campus. “I hate to see money going toward Band-Aids,” said Diedrick, president of the 90-teacher Oberlin Ohio Education Association.
The tour came after board members in June reluctantly scrapped plans to put a levy for a $35.5 million pre-kindergarten-through-12th-grade school on the November ballot due to pressure from taxpayers about the cost. They also cancelled a levy proposal in 2015.
On Sept. 22, board members met with Ohio Facilities Construction Commission officials to discuss their options. Board president Ken Stanley said during the board’s meeting after the tour that they were told state taxpayers would pay for 20 percent of the cost of renovation or building a new school. Oberlin would receive the money five to seven years after the project began.
Stanley said a decision on consolidation, renovation, or building new would be made by June.
“It’s all on the table,” he said. “Any of those are options.”
Evan Goodenow can be reached at 440-775-1611 or @GoodenowNews on Twitter
Photos by Evan Goodenow | Oberlin News-Tribune Principal Susan Alig speaks during a Sept. 27 tour of Eastwood Elementary School for board of Oberlin education members and residents. Alig said a lack of air conditioning, bad ventilation, and poorly sealed windows make classrooms extremely hot in the summer and winter.