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Published: Monday, 8/23/2004

Paulding shows off shiny school buildings

Visitors admire a likeness of a panther print in a hallway after yesterday's dedication ceremony for the $21 million school complex in Paulding, where 1,450 students attend classes. Visitors admire a likeness of a panther print in a hallway after yesterday's dedication ceremony for the $21 million school complex in Paulding, where 1,450 students attend classes.

PAULDING - Paulding Exempted Village Schools' $27 million building and renovation project seemed like a four-year pregnancy to school board President Tamera Stoller.

"But it was a good baby," she told about 200 people at yesterday afternoon's dedication of the school's Paulding complex where the district spent $21 million. About 1,450 students have classes in Paulding. A $6 million elementary in Oakwood for 350 pupils was dedicated in the winter.

"I must admit I was very nostalgic when the wrecking ball started demolition of the school I knew as my high school," said Mrs. Stoller, a 1969 Paulding High School graduate.

But those buildings constructed in 1884 and 1939 were prone to flooding in rainy springs. Superintendent William Shugars said more than once he saw a foot of water in a cafeteria and occasionally the district canceled some classes because of water in buildings.

The new and renovated buildings will open to classes Wednesday. But high school band members, who played the "Alma Mater" at yesterday's dedication, and others at the program did their explorations long before yesterday's program.

Scott Spitnale, a senior, said a big change is the media room that will allow students reading announcements to appear on televisions that are in every classroom.

Janel Dasher, a sophomore, noticed the new band room's acoustics allowed a cleaner sound.

Her classmate Ashley Tope said the new elevators would be easier for people using wheelchairs.

Teresa Williamson, a wheelchair user whose husband, Rex, was on the school board when the project was started, pronounced the new complex one of the most accessible buildings in Paulding. Before the renovation, she needed help to get up the school's steps.

The Paulding complex was financed with $15.5 million from the Ohio School Facilities Commission and $5.5 million from a bond issue the district's voters approved in 2000. Including the new Oakwood building, the state spent about $20 million and local taxpayers about $7 million.

District property owners are scheduled to pay on the bond issue until 2023, although if interest rates remain lower than projected, the debt might be paid off by 2020, district treasurer Jim Durre said.

The state's portion of the Paulding work is part of the $2 million a day that the school facilities commission has been spending for the last 18 months. The commission has a $23 billion plan to rebuild or renovate buildings in every Ohio school district that raises what the commission determines to be its local share.

By the end of this year, more than 225 buildings in about 125 districts will have been built or renovated with assistance from the commission, the commission's legislative liaison, Charles Brading, said in his speech.

The commission's 12-year plan, developed in 1997, calls for the state to provide $10 billion and local taxpayers to provide $13 billion. The state is using its $4 billion tobacco settlement and borrowing much of the rest of its portion, which is to be paid off largely by state income tax and sales tax collections.

Such numbers are a far cry from the $17,845 that Paulding spent in 1884 to build Paulding Union School. Four years later one student, Hortense Avers Leidel, received her diploma at the first graduation. In 1937 the district received a $98,000 federal grant to build a high school. By 1953, bonds of $510,000 were issued for a new elementary.

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