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Published: Tuesday, 3/30/2004

Tab for new B.G. schools would top $56M

BOWLING GREEN - It would cost more than $56 million and require replacing up to six schools if the Bowling Green schools followed recommendations in a preliminary assessment by the Ohio School Facilities Commission.

The school board and the public were briefed last night on the building review done over the winter by Columbus-based Bovis Lend Lease at the state's expense.

The analysis, which included half-day visits to each of the district's schools, showed that South Main, Ridge, Milton, and Conneaut elementaries would need to be replaced, while Crim Elementary and Bowling Green Junior High could either be replaced or renovated. The high school and Kenwood Elementary qualified for renovation.

"We have a lot of options, including not doing anything with the state at all," Eric Myers, school board president, told the audience.

Under the OSFC's proposal, the district would renovate and add on to the high school and Kenwood and build two K-5 elementaries and a middle school for grades 6-8. The state would pay just 18 percent of construction and demolition costs, which added together total $58.1 million.

Jim Swartzmiller, senior project manager for Bovis Lend Lease, said the assessment was based on standards laid out in the two-inch thick Ohio School Design Manual and tells "what it would take to bring your buildings up to this standard."

The state took into consideration the number of students in each building, square footage, mechanical systems, and enrollment projections. The state works under the premise that each building must have at least 350 students to be run efficiently.

State requirements also call for building a school rather than remodeling an old one when the renovation cost is estimated at two-thirds or more of the cost to build. Crim Elementary fell right on the line at a 66 percent renovation cost, while the junior high was placed at 65 percent.

Dr. Myers said he was surprised by some of the findings, including the recommendation

to replace Conneaut, one of the district's newer elementaries, and the fact that the junior high "was on the bubble." He has been a proponent of building a middle school to replace the 1925 junior high school, a three-story building situated near downtown.

Superintendent Hugh Caumartin said last night that the OSFC report comes at a good time. The school board plans to begin a series of small-group discussions throughout the district to gauge residents' values and priorities for the schools. The discussions were prompted by a controversial proposal earlier this school year to realign grades and close some buildings.

"I think these are some of the things we can delve into," he said, referring to the OSFC analysis. "For example, do people think we need air-conditioning in every building?"

OSFC requirements call for air-conditioning, sprinkler systems, roofs less than 10 years old, hot water heating systems, modern technology, and other basic features even if a building's existing roof does not leak and the boiler heating system works just fine, Mr. Caumartin said.

The school board has 30 days to examine the assessment and make its own suggestions to the OSFC.

Mr. Caumartin said the district needs to determine what it does and doesn't need.

"When you get 80 cents on the dollar, it's one thing," he said, adding, "When you're getting 18 cents, you look at things a little differently."

The percentage the Ohio School Facilities Commission will pay for a building project is primarily based on a school district's per pupil property valuation.

In Elmwood Local Schools in southern Wood County, for example, the state picked up 80 percent of that district's new $28 million building for kindergarten through grade 12.



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