Sunday, February 04, 2001

Ross schools, state debate building 3rd elementary

By Sue Kiesewetter
Enquirer Contributor

        ROSS TOWNSHIP — The Ohio School Facilities Commission and Ross Local Schools' educators agree what should be done to improve facilities for Ross middle and high school students: close the middle school, build a new high school and renovate Ross High for grades 6 to 8.

        But when it comes to Ross' youngest pupils, there is some disagreement.

        A recommendation received this week from the commission's consultants calls for classroom additions at Elda and Morgan elementary schools. That would increase enrollment from 400 to 430 at each building to about 660 over the next 10 years. A planning group at Ross prefers three elementary schools, each with an enrollment of 400 to 450.

        “We're basically at the beginning of negotiating about what our final package will look like,” Superintendent David McWilliams said.

        Under the state's Expedited Local Partnership Program, commission consultants and school officials work together to prepare a master facility plan for school districts. Any projects in the final plan that meet commission criteria are eligible for state funds on a shared basis with the local district. Every August the commission ranks school districts and determines the state and local share based on criteria that includes need.

        Using that formula, Ross would be eligible for funds in 2008. The state would pay 48 percent of the cost of qualifying projects.

        “We've got to make a decision by August,” said Bill Spade, who chaired Ross' fa cility group. “Otherwise there's a possibility that when we're re-evaluated, our matching funds would go down.”

        The estimated cost if the consultant's recommendations were adopted is about $37.5 million, compared with $35.4 million under Ross' proposal. Neither plan factors in the cost of land, which is not eligible for matching funds.

        Parents will be asked their opinions in a survey that will go out in the district newsletter by mid-March.

        “The big question is, do we (build) a third-grade school instead of remodeling the other two?” Mr. Spade said.

        State planners have projected Ross' enrollment to increase from today's 2,561 to about 2,679 over the next 10 years, slightly higher than Mr. McWilliams' estimates.

        A bond issue likely would be needed for Ross' share of the plan, Mr. McWilliams said.


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