Monday, May 21, 2018
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Board is ready to cast vote on TPS overhaul

Among the top questions for Toledo's board of education tonight is whether to bypass the administration's recommendation to close and replace Libbey High and instead renovate the 80-year-old school on Western Avenue.

“It's definitely something we're going to consider,” said board Vice President David Welch. “It all comes down to economics: what do we think we can ask the city to support, and how much that millage can be.”

The board is to vote tonight on a roughly $825 million proposed building project, part of the Ohio School Facilities Commission plans to replace and rebuild the state's aging schools.

About a quarter of Toledo's project needs to be locally funded while the state would pay for the rest.

Superintendent Eugene Sanders has said the district doesn't want to ask voters to decide about a bond levy worth more than 5 mills to pay for the project.

While the exact amount of the levy won't be known until August, Treasurer Jim Fortlage has calculated the possible maximum amount for homeowners.

“If the total package comes out to 5 mills, the cost to a homeowner with a market value of $75,000 would be about $115 annually,” Mr. Fortlage said.

The district released its master plan for the Ohio School Facilities project earlier this month. Among the recommendations are renovating seven schools: Scott and Waite high schools; Glendale-Feilbach, Harvard, and Old West End Academy elementary schools, and the Toledo Technology and Aviation centers.

The rest would be closed and rebuilt except for East Side Central, Fulton, Mount Vernon, and Warren elementary schools, which would not be replaced.

New middle schools, which would add sixth grade to the current junior high configuration, would be built in all the learning communities except Rogers including one at a renovated DeVilbiss High School.

At the only community forum since the administration released its recommended master plan, the board last Tuesday heard from about 20 community residents, parents, teachers, and alumni. Many had an interest in saving Libbey.

“Right from the get-go Scott and Waite were `don't touch' and Libbey was `tear down,'” Orris Tabner, a Libbey alumnus, told the board. “The folks from Libbey would like you to reconsider.”

After the three-hour meeting, board President Peter Silverman asked Dr. Sanders to have his staff produce a more detailed analysis of Libbey including renovating it, demolishing part of it and rebuilding behind the current fa ade, or moving the administrative offices there to share costs.

He said his request did not indicate criticism of how the administration has handled the massive OSFC project.

“I think the process has worked very well. We're to a point where there's really only one building where there's a public issue. It's Libbey, and it's only its graduates. No parents came in and pounded the table and said, `Don't put my kids in a new school,'” Mr. Silverman said.

Acting Business Manager Dan Burns toured Libbey last week with some architects to determine more specific costs for renovations - for example, leaving the historic fa ade and building a new school behind it. “It all comes at a cost,” Mr. Burns said.

Mr. Silverman maintained that board decisions about the project, and specific schools like Libbey and Arlington Elementary School should be focused on the educational future of the district.

He said how he votes tonight on the master plan will reflect that priority.

“At the end of the day, we've got to do the right thing,” Mr. Silverman said. “When you're making a decision that's going to affect 50 years in the future, you have to do the right thing and hope the voters will vote for the right reasons.

“You can't make decisions to buy a pocket of votes here and a pocket of votes there,” he said.

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