Thursday, November 15, 2001

CPS meets with state on plan to fix schools

By Jennifer Mrozowski
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        When the state contributes money to build or fix school buildings, every structure must meet specific standards, but they don't all have to look the same, the Cincinnati Public Schools board of education learned Wednesday.

        State officials told the board that new and renovated public school buildings can be tailored to CPS' educational needs if the board joins the state for a building project that could cost up to $900 million.

        “We have a lot of flexibility on what our buildings look like,” said Kent Cashell, the district's business executive.

        The state will contribute 23 percent for the project, as long as the district can come up with the balance.

        Wednesday's meeting at CPS' Education Center in Corryville was the first of several gatherings to explain the laborious 16-month-long process to:

        • Assess CPS' 76 school buildings.

        • Develop a facilities master plan.

        • Determine ways to fund the project.

        • Outline implementation.

        After the meeting, several board members said the presentation provided a good understanding of how the state can partner with local districts to rebuild Ohio's schools.

        A full facilities master plan for the district is expected to be released in January. It will outline which schools should be renovated, replaced or closed.

        After preliminary assessments, the state said, 15 of CPS' 76 buildings should be renovated, but the other 61 should be replaced or closed.

        The state uses a formula that says school buildings should be replaced, not renovated, if the cost to renovate exceeds 66 percent of the cost to build new. For example if a building costs $10 million to replace, but would cost $6.6 million or more to renovate, the building should be replaced, even at the higher cost.

        That's because it's more efficient to operate and build new, state officials say.

        The board also learned that:

        • Buildings and classrooms could be designed to have teachers working in teams, which the district favors as an educational model.

        • Buildings could include adaptable areas for parent services, outside agencies, community partners and recreation. That's in line with CPS' strategy to build buildings that encourage community use.

        • Square footage of all buildings and the location of buildings would be based on district and neighborhood enrollment projections. The projections would be revisited and adjusted every two to three years.

        • CPS must pay for add-ons that go beyond the state's required guidelines. For example, the state does not contribute toward athletic stadiums or stand-alone auditoriums but will contribute for a combination cafeteria-auditorium, and playground equipment.


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