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Published: 8/3/2005

Perrysburg: State study says replace 2 school buildings

BY RACHEL ZINN
BLADE STAFF WRITER

The Perrysburg school district should replace the Commodore Building and Frank Elementary school and spend nearly $30 million renovating its other school buildings, according to the draft of an Ohio School Facilities Commission study reviewed by school officials last week.

The commission studied Perrysburg's school facilities at no charge to the district. The state agency, which allocates funding for school building improvements, employs consulting firms to do similar studies for districts around Ohio.

School board members and district administrators last week looked at a draft of the commission's report, which includes a "master plan" with estimated costs to renovate and replace each of the buildings. Following the plan would cost the district roughly $50 million, officials said.

The commission recommends replacing any school with renovation costs equal to at least two-thirds of the costs to replace the school. In the report for Perrysburg, both Frank and the Commodore Building require enough renovations that they qualify for the replacement recommendation.

"We were totally expecting what they told us about the Commodore Building," said Richard Jones, business manager for the district. "We were surprised by Frank but obviously we're not going to replace Frank Elementary."

Another surprise to district officials was the enrollment growth projection provided by DeJong and Associates Inc., a consulting firm in central Ohio used by the commission for its study.

The commission study based its recommendations on predictions that the district would gain just 83 students over the next 10 years.

In contrast, projections from two consulting firms hired by the school district show that enrollment will likely grow by more than 400 students in the next decade. One of the firms, Planning Advocates Inc., was hired by the district for about $22,000 to analyze its existing school buildings.

"I feel that the projections from Planning Advocates, in my opinion, are more accurate [than the commission's study]," school board president Ken Widdel said. "Not only do Planning Advocates' projections closely resemble the last 10 years, but I feel confident that their projections will be more accurate in the future also."

The state's facilities commission allocates funding for school districts that adopt their recommendations. The commission decides how much funding each school district will receive and when they will the get money.

Mr. Jones said Perrysburg schools would probably only get about 15 percent of construction costs covered by state funding even if they agreed to the commission's strict regulations.

"We keep asking them when we would be eligible for this money, and they don't know," Mr. Jones said.

He said school administrators are not planning to apply for state funding because they do not agree with all the commission's recommendations and want to have more flexibility in the facilities expansion project.

Funding for the building renovations will come from a levy or bond issue, officials said. School board members are hoping to get an issue on the November ballot.

The board needs to decide on a long-term facilities plan before putting an issue before voters. It met with architects Monday and will continue discussing facility expansion over the next few weeks.

"We were glad to have the [state commission] study done," Mr. Jones said. "It is valuable for us in terms of looking at the costs to bring the buildings up to a certain standard."



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