Thursday, January 24, 2002

Talawanda to decide building strategy

By Sue Kiesewetter
Enquirer Contributor

        OXFORD — The Talawanda Board of Education this month will decide whether to approve a master plan for the district that calls for building two schools and closing two elementary schools.

        “We've got buildings that are falling apart and overcrowded,” said Glenn Bailey, president of the Talawanda Board of Education. “We've got to do something.”

        The Ohio School Facilities Commission (OSFC) has approved three separate plans for the district. It recently updated their costs to account for inflation and actual construction costs per square foot, based on other recent Southwest Ohio school improvement projects.

        The revised estimates raised the cost of the most popular option, plan C, by about $8.2 million, from $47.9 million to $56.1 million, said James Rowan, treasurer for the Talawanda Schools.

        Under that plan, the district would build elementary and high schools and abandon Stewart and Kramer elementary schools. The existing high school would be used as an elementary school.

        Parent Jay Young offered an alternative plan to convert the high school to a middle school, and the middle school to elementary. The board is considering the suggestion, Mr. Bailey said. That plan also has OSFC approval and could cut costs by about $3 million, Mr. Rowan said.

        The school board called a special meeting for 7 p.m. Monday at Talawanda Middle School to discuss the issue and is expected to select either plan C or Mr. Young's proposal, Mr. Bailey said. At the meeting, the board also will decide whether to build both schools as one project or divide it into two phases, which would require two bond issues instead of one large issue.

        The district is eligible to receive about 24 percent of the project's cost from the state. It wouldn't receive that money until some time between 2009 and 2011, Mr. Rowan said. Cost estimates do not include the price of land, which is not reimbursable by the state, Mr. Rowan said. Land could add $1 million to $2 million.

        Mr. Rowan said he would prepare millage estimates for plan C and the alternative plan for review at Monday's meeting. Estimates will be prepared as one May bond issue and as two separate bond issues, should the board decide to split the project.

        Before May, the board also will have to decide where to build the two schools, Mr. Bailey said. Leo Erick has offered property along U.S. 27 in Oxford Township, near Booth Road. It is the same site the board considered during a previous failed bond issue to construct a high school. Superintendent Phil Cagwin said he is also looking at land on Contreras Road and Kehr Road in Oxford Township and Ohio 73 in Milford Township.

        “We're continuing to investigate other land options with Realtors and property owners” Mr. Cagwin said Wednesday. “I hope to have five or more options to present Monday.”


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