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Published: Tuesday, 12/3/2002

Bowling Green schools contemplate realignment

BY JENNIFER FEEHAN
BLADE STAFF WRITER

BOWLING GREEN - Ken Frisch was president of the parent-teacher organization at Bowling Green Junior High School when he got to know the building inside and out.

The experience led him and other parents to approach the school board last spring about looking seriously at whether the three-story, 1920s-built school had outlived its usefulness. Two committees were formed this fall to look at how the district might replace the junior high and how those plans would affect the rest of the 3,300-student district.

"We knew there had been some discussion about this in the past, but we wanted to make sure the discussion stayed in front of the board and in front of the community," Mr. Frisch said.

Superintendent Hugh Caumartin said all of the district's buildings have been well maintained over the years, but three of its six elementary schools have had shrinking enrollment, and the junior high is a maintenance headache.

"When you walk into the junior high, you can just about hear the sucking sound of all the money you have to put into it just to keep it going," he said.

While the building presents electrical and plumbing problems due to its age, it also poses issues over handicapped accessibility. It has an elevator, but the elevator is not accessible to an annex where art and music classes are held.

Mr. Caumartin said the committees are looking at the possibility of building a middle school that would house grades 6-8 as well as the idea of clustering grade levels at elementary buildings.

The alignment committee plans to meet at 7 p.m. tomorrow at the Central Administration Building on South Grove Street to talk about grade-level buildings.

Speaking to the group will be Genoa Superintendent Dennis Mock and several staff members from the Ottawa County school district that in 1999 converted three elementaries and a junior high to an elementary for kindergarten through second grade, an elementary for grades three through five, and a middle school for grades six through eight. It later built a new middle school.

Mr. Caumartin stressed that anything is possible, from doing nothing right now to building a middle school, re-arranging grades that are assigned to buildings, closing schools, or keeping them all.

"Right now what we're doing is kicking tires and seeing where we want to go," he said. "Anything is on the table."

He declined to say which buildings he felt should be phased out, but said he is interested in pursuing the idea of having more than one class of every grade level at each elementary.

Currently, the three smallest elementaries - Milton, South Main, and Ridge - only have one class of each grade.

"One comment you hear most from teachers with one class per grade is, 'It's pretty lonely,' and that's what you have at the three smaller elementaries," he said. "You have that to look at, but at the same time you don't want to create mega-schools. You want to keep that sense of familiarity. You still want everyone to know everyone."

Kenwood and Conneaut elementaries have three classes of each grade level but have managed to maintain that neighborhood feel, he said.

Mr. Caumartin said any changes in the district likely would be made with local money.

Bowling Green is probably a decade away from qualifying for state construction funds through the Ohio Schools Facilities Commission, he said, and even when its number comes up, it would probably only qualify for about 17 percent state funding.

"What I've found in talking to other superintendents who are kind of in the same position is that by the time you do all the things the OSFC requires that you don't want to do, it costs you more than the OSFC gives you," Mr. Cau|martin said.

The facilities commission be|gan with the state's poorest school districts and helped them renovate or build schools with the state providing more than 90 percent of the funding.

As it works its way down the list of wealthier school districts, that percentage shrinks proportionately.



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