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Published: Thursday, 3/31/2005

Perrysburg: School buildings report says only minor changes needed

BY RACHEL ZINN
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Fifth and sixth-graders should have their own school and the Commodore Building should not reopen as a learning center, but overall, Perrysburg City Schools' buildings are in good shape and need just minor improvements.

That's the gist of what an educational consulting firm had to say about district facilities and recommendations for long-term facilities planning.

Planning Advocates Inc., of Delaware, Ohio, submitted a $22,410 report of 80 pages to the Perrysburg Board of Education last week. The firm evaluated the district's facility needs over the next decade.

"The report that Planning Advocates provided gave us some insight on the range of expected growth of the district," said Ken Widdel, school board president.

The firm looked at past school enrollments and other demographic information to predict how the district will grow.

Over the next 10 years, the firm's high projections show the district enrollment increasing by 700 students, while the low projections show enrollment rising by just a few dozen students. The report's most likely scenario predicts the entire district growing to a total of about 4,800 students.

"We're pretty comfortable that a 400 to 500 student increase is where you'll be over the next 10 years," Ron Smith, vice president of Planning Advocates, told the school board.

Several of the district's buildings have nearly the number of students they can effectively accommodate, the report said, so the district will need some changes to its facilities to deal with growth.

"At Fort Meigs, Toth, and Woodland elementary schools and at the junior high, you're pretty much maxed out on capacity," Mr. Smith said.

Planning Advocates recommended taking fifth-graders out of the elementary schools and removing sixth-graders from the junior high to allow these buildings to comfortably house students as enrollment increases.

The firm suggested building a school for fifth and sixth graders on land the district owns along State Rt. 199. The estimated cost of the school would be $14.5 million.

Mr. Widdel said the school board likely will consider two new school scenarios. The district could either have a new building to house all fifth and sixth-graders, or have a new building and the current junior high that would contain fifth through eighth-graders.

"Some of the things that we need to look at are not only the costs of building but also programs, classes, and extracurricular activities that we can offer our students at those grade levels," he said.

Planning Advocates also rated all the district's buildings based on several criteria, including safety, accessibility, and efficiency. The firm found that all the schools were meeting programming needs or needed minor improvements.

"All your buildings scored very well," Mr. Smith said. "You've maintained them well."

The Commodore Building, which was taken out of service as a school a few years ago, scored low enough that Planning Advocates recommend against turning it back into a school building.

The firm said the district could spend $18 million or more renovating the building to make it adequate as a school, including installation of new heating, plumbing and electrical systems, replacing all doors and windows, and removing asbestos and other hazardous materials.

Superintendent Michael Cline said there are several options for how the district could preserve the Commodore Building.

"We're just beginning to look at what alternative uses the building could have," he said.

Other recommendations from Planning Advocates include:

● Increase sizes of some classrooms, especially at Woodland Elementary. State standards say that typical classrooms should be 900 square feet.

● Add an auxiliary gym and outdoor athletic fields at the high school.

● Improve technology availability at the high school.

● Upgrade science facilities at the junior high.

Perrysburg schools also is having the Ohio School Facilities Commission evaluate its buildings from an engineering perspective. The state will likely have its report ready in the next few weeks.

"I feel that with the information from Planning Advocates and what the state will give us in the next couple of weeks, we will be able to effectively come up with a plan for the growth of our student population and the facilities needed to accommodate the need," Mr. Widdel said.



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