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Published: Tuesday, 11/6/2012

Rossford schools to consult voters on upgrades

Bruce Miller and Dawn Burks during a meeting on Rossford School District's process to determine the best way to update programs and buildings at Rossford High School. Bruce Miller and Dawn Burks during a meeting on Rossford School District's process to determine the best way to update programs and buildings at Rossford High School.

The Rossford schools could come to the voters next November with a levy request, but this would happen only after a community survey has determined what residents' preferences are for improving the district's facilities. 

This was part of the takeaway from a special meeting called by the Board of Education last week to update the public on the exploratory process the district has under way to find the best way to upgrade its outdated buildings.

A steering committee of citizens has been studying the possibilities, and a facilitator, Ron Victor, has been hired to push the process along. Garmann/Miller and Associates Inc., an architectural and engineering firm, is assessing the district's buildings to determine their conditions and needs.

At the lightly attended meeting in the high school auditorium, steering committee chairman John Appt said he expected the community survey to be done in January and be followed by public meetings conducted by Mr. Victor. Options and costs will be determined in the spring and a presentation made to the school board in June.

Next will come a series of community presentations. The school board would then be expected to decide on whether to finance the improvements with a levy or internal funding. If the board approved a levy request, it would appear on the November, 2013, ballot.

In 2010, Rossford voters overwhelmingly rejected a bond levy that would have paid for new middle and high schools. An opposition group organized against the levy and it was turned down by 65 percent of voters. Now, officials are taking a different approach and letting the public develop a plan to replace the aging buildings.

Mr. Victor, a former school superintendent who lives in Willoughby, Ohio, said the Rossford schools had the right idea.

"The communities that are successful are the ones doing it very much like Rossford," he explained.

School board president Dawn Burks told the gathering, "We have a lot of facilities, but some are deteriorating and some are not up to standards for technology."

Bruce Miller of Garmann/Miller agreed that some of the buildings were worn and dated, but said he was impressed by the SMART Boards in every classroom, something that isn't seen across Ohio.

He said that some upgrades, such as lighting, can pay for themselves in less than three years. The needs assessment, he said, would involve interviewing staff members to see what they believed their buildings' deficiencies were.

Mr. Victor said the school district had an "energetic" timeline for what it wanted to accomplish. "The board does not have a plan; it has a process."

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