The Toledo Plan Commission voted 4-0 to approve plans for construction of the $11.8 million Libbey Middle School on the old Gunckel School site, but because of a tight urban setting, adjacent Gunckel Park will serve as the school's open space.
The project at 430 Nebraska Ave. near Collingwood Boulevard is part of the first phase to rebuild 64 schools in the Toledo Public School system. One of the initial steps was to gain approval from the plan commission, which reviews construction plans.
The 80,000-square-foot school will also be the site of a neighborhood health clinic that would partner with the school system on the 5-acre site. The school system has challenges in fitting the school on the site, which more ideally would be 9 acres, school officials told the commission Thursday.
"The way you get 9 acres on that site, is you take away from the [school's open space]. Since [Gunckel] Park is adjacent, it's going to serve as the open space," said Gary Sautter, assistant business manager for the school system.
It's a way the system can design schools that meet space standards in tight urban settings, he said.
Another method of stretching the smaller site is to make the middle school of sixth, seventh, and eighth-graders two stories instead of one. Plan commission members questioned whether bthe school could be three stories because of the space concerns. But that idea is considered taboo because school administrators would be split too much to effectively keep order, school officials said.
George Veronie, the school's architect with The Collaborative, Inc., said school officials would prefer one story over all other designs.
"They have real safety concerns to split," he said. "It has to do with the principal being able to run up and down three floors."
The school system asked the commission for several waivers to the revised zoning code, including the shrub and tree requirements and allowing so-called "front-yard" parking at the site.
The 13,000-square-foot health clinic would be run by the Neighborhood Health Association, and the combined site would almost be integrated into the community.
With only a 9-foot setback, a hedge would have to be built to keep headlights from shining into the apartments on Division Street. The tight quarters requires parking on several sides of the school, and only three buses at one time could fit into the parking lot and roundabout driveway for pick-up and drop-off.
Plan commission members stressed that although urban schools have design and space issues, they must be as high quality as rural and suburban schools and at the same time respect the surrounding communities.
Steve Hervat, the director of the plan commission, said that the book of school design and requirements from the state of Ohio is biased toward sprawling, rural sites.
"The urban setting is penalized and is biased toward cornfield-type, one-story construction," he told commissioners."
The $821 million rebuilding project throughout the Toledo school district is funded mostly through the Ohio Schools Facilities Commission. 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.
The state is using its $4 billion from a 1998 settlement with tobacco companies and borrowing much of the rest of its portion, which is to be paid off largely by state income tax and sales tax collections.
The state provides 77 percent of the total cost of the Toledo project. A bond issue that was passed by the district in November, 2002, provides the balance
Contact Christopher D. Kirkpatrick
or: (419) 724-6077