WADSWORTH — A change in how the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission views excess space within a school district could mean funding to help replace the 111-year-old Central Intermediate School is no longer available to the district, Superintendent Andrew Hill said during Monday evening’s school board meeting.
“At this time they are telling us we are not eligible for additional state funding, which is just a blow to us right now,” Hill said.
Treasurer Doug Beeman said that when the district passed at a bond issue to construct the high school, as well as three elementary schools, an analysis by the commission indicated Central Intermediate School, 151 Main St., should also be replaced.
Beeman said the district and community did not feel the school, which serves fifth- and sixth-grade students, was at the end of its useful life and decided to segment that portion of the plan out.
“What that meant was we took that portion of planning and just put it on the back burner for the moment and in the future we could come back in and revisit that,” Beeman said.
Beeman said the OFCC has changed how it interprets a rule relating to excess space within a school district. The change went into effect in December 2016, he said.
A slideshow presentation of each of the district’s schools, their capacity and how much space was available for additional students was shown during the meeting.
According to the OFCC analysis, the district’s current facilities can accommodate up to 1,000 additional students. Even with Central being taken out of the equation, there is still room for an additional 200 students in the district, the report said.
“What excess space means is they will not fund additional facilities,” Beeman said.
A committee formed to determine the future of Central presented its findings during the April board meeting, revealing it could cost an estimated $21.5 million to bring the school up to 2017 standards, while the estimated cost to replace the structure would be roughly $24 million.
The OFCC contribution was estimated to be $15.1 million.
Hill said the district is continuing to work to exhaust every option to secure the funding, including meeting with OFCC officials in Columbus.
“In our opinion, or at least my opinion, there appears to be a lot of leeway with how the OFCC operates in relation to what some of these things mean and how they prioritize,” he said.
Board member Amanda Gordon said she believes the district should fight to secure the funding.
“I think we really need to advocate hard for grandfathering into the rules at the time we were segmenting,” she said.
Hill said there is a lot at stake for the district as it looks to continue moving forward with determining the future of Central.
“I think before we give up our access to what we believe we have, we need to make sure we’ve looked and tried to get an answer for everything,” Hill said.