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Published: 3/1/2005

Wauseon mulls what to do with school buildings

WAUSEON - A state building and renovation plan for the Wauseon school district that was last estimated at a cost of more than $26 million appeared to be the first choice of the 85 people at a community meeting last night.

"We can't afford to ignore the opportunity," Jim Spieles, a retired chemistry and physics teacher said of the proposition that the school district might be able to build and renovate, using a 2-1 ratio of state to local dollars.

But making improvements without using state money - and thus not having to abide by the state's ideals for each building - was almost as popular.

Under such a plan, district leaders could choose, for instance, whether or not to provide air conditioning for every space. Air conditioning throughout the district's buildings, as well as numerous other changes even in the district's newest buildings, would be required if the state contributes to a project.

Some people at the meeting favored work that would go above and beyond the Ohio School Facilities Commission standards. A few said they wanted to make only specific changes in some buildings. And there was at least one vote for simply maintaining the present buildings to be warm, safe, and dry.

The district's 35-member facilities committee was charged with studying suggestions and questions from last night's meeting and preparing another community presentation on April 11.

The facilities committee is to recommend a long-term master plan on the district's buildings to the school board by the end of June.

The summary of last night's suggestions came at the end of the evening, after the crowd broke into groups of seven or eight for discussion.

Each small group was to rank six suggestions, ranging from doing nothing to going beyond the state standards.

The 85 people in attendance, however, were hardly representative of the district.

More than 50 of them were members of the facilities committee, school board members, or school employees. And some of the rest were spouses and parents of people close to the school.

"We have a daughter who's a teacher," Gordon Domeck, a retired lumberyard owner said, of one reason he favors a building project.

The building and renovation project recommended by the state was last estimated in 2002 at $26.1 million.

But costs have gone up significantly since then, in part because of higher steel prices, leaders said.

Superintendent Marc Robinson had hoped at least 150 people would attend the meeting. An architectural firm, hired by the district at a cost of $15,000 to help it study what the community wants, printed 5,500 invitations to last night's meeting. The invitations were sent home with students and distributed at several local businesses.

Winter weather might have cut into attendance; snow fell during the meeting. But the meeting may have drawn a smaller crowd simply because people are busy, Mr. Robinson said.



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