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Published: Wednesday, 5/14/2008

Campaign intensifies for school bond issue

BY MIKE JONES
SPECIAL TO THE BLADE

Campaigning is increasing to put a bond referendum on the Nov. 4 ballot for capital improvements for Sylvania schools.

Schools Superintendent Brad Rieger addressed Sylvania City Council and other community leaders last week after discussing the issue with parent organizations and other groups at schools in recent months.

He said the board of education has until August to determine the final terms of a bond issue, but it is likely to seek about 3 mills, which would raise the $76 million needed for the school-district improvements.

Passage would result in an annual tax increase of about $225 for the owner of a house valued at $150,000, Mr. Rieger said.

He said that he and board members are aware of the local economic climate, but that the school district's bricks-and-mortar needs are long overdue.

Some of the facilities were built in the 1920s and don't provide a good educational environment, Mr. Rieger said.

The cost of keeping them usable rises each year, he said.

He cited the Burnham Building and housing district offices as needing $1.5 million "just to keep it functioning as-is," including work to address recurring basement flooding.

If the bond issue passes, the school district would tear down Burnham and build a new Maplewood School on the site.

Administrative offices and those of other agencies, like Sylvania Community Services, that occupy Burnham would move to empty office space elsewhere in the district, Mr. Rieger said.

He said there are no plans to build another administration building.

School officials want to build a new Maplewood School because the current structure does not meet the needs of some children with disabilities.

Those students now have to be sent to a school outside their neighborhood.

Many of the problems which face Maplewood also face Central Elementary, which also has a potential safety hazard because it is at a busy intersection.

Central is the only school that would be moved from its general location.

Mr. Rieger noted that there is available school board land at the site of Timberstone Junior High School, but that 85 percent of Central students live south of Central Avenue, which would send them to school relatively far from home.

Much of Hill View Elementary School also would be replaced, although an addition that was constructed in 1996 would be utilized by the new structure.

All other schools in the district will undergo renovations.

One of the goals is to get rid of modular classrooms.

Another is to make room for all-day kindergarten classes in the system.

Mr. Rieger pointed out that Sylvania is one of the few districts in the area which doesn't offer all-day kindergarten.

It is one of the most-requested features by parents whose children are entering the system and he added that it is a "significant need academically.''

Although the school system is rated excellent by the state, Mr. Rieger said that a lack of adequate heating and air conditioning add to the problem of trying to offer a good learning environment in some buildings.

He said an important aspect of construction and renovation will be creating security vestibules which will move visitors directly toward each building's office. New locks, alarms, and cameras would be employed to increase safety throughout the district.

The superintendent made his remarks to elected officials and leaders of local agencies.

He had addressed the same group a year ago, also at the Sylvania Senior Center, when the ideas were in their earlier stages, but he said the proposals are now the result of a year of study, including professional engineering studies.

He added that he will continue to address various groups and seek input from the community before plans are closer to being finalized and the board makes its decision on whether to go to the voters for funding.



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