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Back to chalkboard for school site

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SHARON TWP. — Highland Schools is looking for new land to build the new Sharon Elementary School on after it was determined a pending zoning decision near property the district had eyed for purchase would affect the building project.

The district was looking to buy the 48-acre site of the former Western Reserve Golf Course. The property would have been purchased for $645,519.

“The board authorized the treasurer to enter into a purchase agreement for the Sharon property in June,” Superintendent Catherine Aukerman said in a statement during the Oct. 15 board meeting. “As part of the contract, there is a due diligence period that extends through Jan. 29, 2019. The district has since become aware that industrial zoning may be expanding near the area, which would make that property less desirable for an elementary school site.”

In November, voters approved a bond issue to fund a $63 million project to replace the district’s aging elementary schools including Sharon Elementary, which is 95 years old; Granger Elementary, 88 years old; and Hinckley Elementary, 68 years old.

The bond issue passed after three years of discussion and collaboration with the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission to study the current buildings and receive community input.

The district thought it had squared away each school site when the board approved buying the golf course property in June along with a plan to spend $800,000 for vacant property in Hinckley. The board in March purchased a site on Wilbur Road for Granger Elementary.

But the golf course site now might not work.

Dawn Marzano, the district’s director of communications, said the timing of the zoning decisions would delay the school project.

“They weren’t going to make that decision for months yet,” said Marzano. “We want to buy property, like, now, so that we can start breaking ground.”

Marzano said that the district is looking into new properties for the new school in Sharon.

“We are looking at all viable options right now,” she said.

As a result, the district is pushing back its construction timetable and scheduled opening of the three schools from 2020 to 2021. The district is working on design, safety, and instructional plans for the new schools and will continue planning until it finds a property for the Sharon school.

“The goal remains to bid and build the entire project concurrently in order to leverage our resources and buying power,” the district wrote in the November newsletter to parents posted online. “If we bid each school project separately, it will ultimately cost more. In addition, current market conditions are not ideal as the construction industry is oversaturated with work in this region. Because of where we are in the property acquisition and design process, it creates a situation where we would be going out to bid at the worst possible time of the year for subcontractors.”

Contact reporter Alyssa Alfano at (330) 721-4063 or aalfano@medina.gazette.com

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