Thursday, January 23, 2003

Franklin residents to get say on renovating, replacing school

By Sue Kiesewetter
Enquirer contributor

FRANKLIN - Whether the community wants Franklin Junior High School replaced or renovated may determine how school officials craft a master facilities plan.

Residents of the 3,038-pupil district will have the opportunity to talk about the junior high situation at 7 p.m. today during the second of two community meetings on facilities. The meeting will be in the high school cafeteria, 750 E. Fourth St.

"Our goal is to get a plan in place by mid-February," said Bill Wood, assistant superintendent. "What to do with the junior high is the big question."

Built in 1921 and expanded several times, the junior high is the district's oldest school. The Ohio School Facilities Commission has recommended it be replaced.

A 40-member steering committee was created five months ago to study state recommendations and prepare a plan that would be acceptable to the community and OSFC.

The committee came up with seven options, ranging from $47 million to $50 million, but is focusing on two after residents said they wanted to keep neighborhood schools, said Paul Hillard, a 1953 Franklin High graduate who sits on the committee. Under either scenario, all the elementary schools and high school would be renovated and classrooms would be added to some elementary buildings.

One scenario calls for the junior high to be enlarged and remodeled. In the other, a new junior high would be built to replace the current building. All plans include moving sixth grade to the junior high to free up space in the six elementary schools where art, music and special service teachers have no classrooms.

"As a general rule, we all agreed there is a definite need to improve buildings communitywide and keep the neighborhood schools concept," Mr. Hillard said.

"The costs of abandoning (the junior high) or building new are very close. So you have to look at the inconvenience of moving and the cost of buying land."

After comments from tonight are combined with feedback from an earlier forum, the steering committee plans to develop a phone survey that would be conducted next week, Mr. Hillard said. Those results will be used to form a final recommendation for the school board's Feb. 10 meeting.

Mr. Wood said a bond issue would be needed to pay for improvements, which would likely be done in two phases, probably over a 10-year period. The district wouldn't be eligible for a 40 percent state reimbursement until 2009 or later.


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