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District tours school residents on need for passage of bond issues

by ellin walsh | REPORTER Published: September 25, 2016 12:00 AM
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Tallmadge -- Leaking roofs. Scarce electrical outlets. The presence of asbestos and lead.

Hardly the traditional draw for a sightseeing tour; however, a handful of community members turned out Sept. 21 for behind-the-scenes visits at Dunbar Primary, Munroe Elementary and Tallmadge Middle schools, doing their pre-voting homework of sorts.

Superintendent Jeff Ferguson said the tours were intended to underscore the need for passage of two bond issues on the November General Election ballot.

"They [the three schools] are all comparable in age and condition and outdated from a modern education standpoint," according to Steve Wood, chief operating officer for the school district. Aging structures and the desire for 21st century learning spaces are among the catalysts for the current proposal to upgrade the district's facilities.

One bond issue, for 3.86 mills, aims to condense the district's primary, elementary and middle schools into two buildings on the current middle school campus. That endeavor is anticipated to cost $45 million and the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission has agreed to pay 31 percent or $14 million of that $45 million cost. The school district hopes to raise its share of the expense -- $31 million -- through passage of the bond issue. The academics bond issue would cost the owner of a home with an assessed value of $100,000 $11.26 per month according to Tallmadge City Schools Treasurer Jeff Hostetler.

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The other bond issue, for 0.9 mills, would address the district's athletic facility needs. As proposed, the athletics bond issue would generate $7 million, which the superintendent said is enough to move all varsity athletics to the high school campus. The athletics bond issue would cost the owner of a home with an assessed value of $100,000 $2.63 per month, Hostetler reported. Funding would also be sought from private donors.

Dunbar Primary was built in 1949, Tallmadge Middle School in 1959 and Munroe Elementary in 1962. Courtney Davis fills a dual role as principal for both Dunbar and Munroe. She said both schools face the same issues: roof leaks, lack of compliance with the Americans With Disabilities Act; the presence of asbestos in floor tiles and lead in paint; and lack of air flow. The heating system at Munroe needs replaced, she says, and youngsters have to physically leave the school building to attend technology class and library in an adjacent trailer.

"First and foremost," though, she said, "the current facilities do not support the flexible and collaborative nature of learning in the 21st century Learning now looks very different than it did in the '50's and '60s. We know that our students learn best through hands-on, real-world, project-based experiences. Technology is a crucial piece to 21st century learning. Our students need access to a wealth of information to keep up with rapidly changing technology. In today's world, students must be able to create, evaluate and utilize information and technology. We are unable to provide these experiences for our students in our current facilities due to lack of flexible spaces for varied learning opportunities and the necessary infrastructure to support 21st century technology."

Rob Kearns, who's served as principal at Tallmadge Middle School since 2009, agrees that the lecture-based style of instruction that the school building was constructed around isn't optimal today. He also notes many classrooms only boast a couple of outlets which he says isn't enough to power computers.

"The electrical systems and cabling in this building are just completely out of date," according to Kearns. "Whenever we plug in a couple of things in a classroom we blow a fuse." The middle school roof leaks and the building's heating system is failing, Kearns adds.

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The Tallmadge City School District has taken a critical step toward receiving the funds from the state, Hostetler said. On Sept. 21, the Board of Education adopted a resolution agreeing to be placed on conditional approval status participation-wise for the OFCC program. By doing so, the school district agreed to meet conditions including raising the local share of project costs within 13 months from Aug. 8; that was the day the Ohio Controlling Board approved the conditional release of funds to the Tallmadge City School District through the Classroom Facilities Assistance Program.

The district has developed a master plan which features the construction of a new elementary school to house grades prekindergarten through five and a new middle school to house grades six through eight onto a single campus where the current middle school sits. A 75,000-square-foot middle school and a 100,000-square-foot elementary school are being envisioned. District officials describe the stadium as being "in disrepair." They propose a new stadium which would be available for athletic tournaments and use by the community.

If voters approve the bond issues in November, district officials anticipate construction getting under way in late 2017 or early 2018. The goal would be to open the new facilities in fall 2019.

Email: ewalsh@recordpub.com.

Phone: 330-541-9419

Twitter: @ EllinWalsh_RPC

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