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District Holds Meeting on January 4 to Discuss Future of Facilities
On Wednesday, January 4, the North Royalton Board of Education held a special meeting at North Royalton High School to discuss with residents the decisions that need to be made regarding the district’s facilities and future of educational learning in North Royalton. With more than 200 people in attendance, two plans were presented to residents. Plan A is to place the same bond issue that went before voters in November 2016 on the May 2, 2017 ballot. This is a 3.1 (true tax impact) mill for a new elementary school, complete high school renovation and addition, middle school updates, and repairs and long-term facility maintenance. Plan B is to evaluate what to do if the issue is not placed on the ballot or if the issue fails.

“There is no way to be able to use current funds available to complete the $81 million in renovations that the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission has stated that are needed to renovate the existing structures nor is there a way to use existing dollars to fund a comprehensive plan to provide facilities that effectively meets the 21st century educational needs of all our students,” said Superintendent Greg Gurka during his opening remarks. “What Plan B will do is address only those issues that we can no longer subject our students and staff to. First and foremost are the heating and cooling problems at our elementary schools and high school. It is unfathomable that we have students sitting in classrooms with extreme hot or cold temperatures that rob them of the ability to fully focus and concentrate on their learning. This must be addressed now. We cannot put it off any longer.”

During the meeting, Gurka referenced the recent community phone survey that was conducted. Results showed the number one concern of residents about the current condition of the buildings, specifically at the elementary level, that is having a negative impact on students, was that the buildings are either too hot or too cold, and the lack of air conditioning/heat. In a survey of teachers and staff two years ago, 96% said current school facilities are generating serious problems for students. Safety, security, leaky roofs, lack of access to technology, but most importantly providing comfortable classrooms where children can concentrate and learn, result in losing days and even weeks of teaching and learning time each year.

“The cost to address these with permanent improvement and general fund dollars comes at a high price of what it will cost in terms of programs and services that we provide to our students and community,” continued Gurka. “Is Plan B a wise use of our tax dollars? Absolutely not. Is it a wise use of money to help improve the conditions of the teaching and learning environment? Yes, because doing nothing is no longer an option.”

Gurka, as well as Treasurer Biagio Sidoti, explained in detail the district’s budget and how after the May 2009 operating levy passed, and the state cut even more funding to the district, the district continued to reduce spending and remain fiscally responsible with taxpayers’ dollars, while making as many necessary improvements to all of the facilities as the budget allowed. “Today, there are few holes on our district’s financial belt that are left to be tightened unless we reduce educational programs and services,” said Gurka. “Our goal in coming up with the money needed to fund Plan B is to make reductions as far away from the classroom as possible. However, because we do not have much, if any fat, in our operation, that is going to be challenging.”

The district presented to the community a list of programs and services, along with a budget, that are currently offered that are either above the state minimum requirements or are not mandated by the state.

These include:
  • Increase in class sizes to > 30 at all levels (approximately 15 positions) - $750,000
  • Elimination of Remedial Support Services (RtI) (approximately 6 positions) $300,000
  • Elimination of gifted services: 3 Teaching positions and 1 Coordinator- $185,000
  • Elimination of Middle School Athletics - $125,000
  • Buildings closed to outside groups immediately after the school day, thus reducing the need for night custodial staff - $200,000
  • Various Administrative and district support staff positions: (i.e. Curriculum Facilitator, Technology, Central Office, Transportation department, maintenance) $300,000
  • Various certified support staff - $150,000
  • Minimum transportation (no HS and 2 mile radius for K-8; includes parochial and private schools) - $950,000
  • Reduced Supplemental positions (clubs and programs) - $25,000
  • Pay to participate increases (Athletics and Music) - $250,000
  • Eliminate 8th grade foreign language option and phase out German as a option - $75,000
  • Field trip reductions due to reduced bus drivers - $25,000
  • Professional Development limits -$25,000
  • Supply Purchasing reductions - $50,000
The total projected costs savings is $3,371,000. This allows for $3.3 million to address our most critical building needs per year. Residents were given a close look at the district’s proposed seven-year plan, along with specific costs, to address the building’s learning environment and critical issues of its facilities. Total costs of Plan B equal $29,557,000, with $5,430,000 being covered by existing permanent improvement funds. The remaining $24,127,000 would need to come from the general/operating funds.

Over the seven-year time frame, the main item that will be addressed is the HVAC issues at the elementary and high school buildings and the necessary electrical upgrades that are needed in conjunction with that. Other examples of projects that would be completed include middle school roof section repairs, asphalt/concrete repairs, bus purchases, high school rear parking lot repair, elementary roof coatings, partial window replacements, and security entrances at buildings.

Many items will not be able to be addressed because of the lack of funding. These include asbestos removal, fire/security alarm systems, ADA issues, plumbing, safety sprinklers, lighting, furniture, flooring, technology infrastructure and overall asphalt/concrete replacements.

“As you can see, addressing the temperature extremes in our elementary schools and high school and providing basic maintenance for all of our buildings is going to have a significant impact on our operating budget and the educational programs and services that it supports,” said Gurka. “During periods of extreme heat or cold, learning in many classrooms comes to a halt. When it is unbearably warm, the lights in many elementary classrooms must be turned off and the children are given popsicles to try to stay comfortable. In the winter, many classrooms are uncomfortably cold and the children must wear their coats to try to stay warm. This can’t go on any longer.”

The detailed plan and results of the community phone survey can be found below.

The Board of Education will be meeting January 5 and 9, and then conduct a special meeting on January 23 at 7am to make a final decision about placing a bond issue on the May 2 ballot. Following that decision, the district will continue to engage the community in a conversation to confirm Plan B. This is necessary in case the decision is not to place the issue on the May ballot, or if it is on the ballot, what to do if it is defeated.

“Our district has done everything we could over the past five years to engage the community in this decision-making process and we will continue to do so,” said Gurka. “We thank those residents who have taken the time to participate in focus groups, surveys, as well as invited us into their homes for neighborhood gatherings and attend meetings like the one we held tonight. I am confident that together, as a community, we will come together and do what is right for our children.”