North Royalton City Schools' Community Engagement Taskforce Proposes Options for Future of District's Facilities
North Royalton City Schools’ Taskforce Proposes Options
For Future of District’s Facilities
On Monday, February 1, the North Royalton City Schools’ Community Engagement Taskforce members held a community meeting where more than 200 residents met in the North Royalton High School Performing Arts Center to listen to the Taskforce’s recommendations for the future of the district’s facilities.
For more than a year, the mission of this Taskforce has been to engage the community in active dialog through surveys, community discussions and public meetings, along with responsibly researching the best options for the residents and taxpayers of North Royalton through dialog with State Certified Professionals in the education and school construction fields.
From the inception of the Taskforce, professional resources and individuals were used to conduct the research and guide the process that has led to findings and recommendations. They include: Corky O’Callaghan, with 25 years of experience in helping school districts engage the community in more than 30 school districts; Christopher Smith, of TDA Architecture, with 30 years of experience in educational classroom design and community engagement; Jeffery Tuckerman, of Hammond Construction, a state representative for construction recommendations and guidance on state funding programs; and Bill Prenosil of the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission (OFCC), the agency responsible for guiding capital projects for schools and other state-agencies.
“Our recommendations have been in line with the results of an investigation of the OFCC, as well as a deep analysis of the current condition of our school buildings,” said Tony Santangelo, parent, recreation board member and Taskforce committee member. “The main drive in our decision making process has been the goal of our committee since day one–what is best in deciding how to make a better school district and better educational institution for the children on North Royalton City Schools as we approach the 21st century.”
Research included staff surveys; community surveys; visitation of all school buildings; engagement of residents through coffee discussions; an educational visioning session with trained professionals; the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission (OFCC) Report on the district’s facilities; Comfort Control Group and Energy Star presentations; projected student enrollment data; and monthly committee discussions.
At the February 1 meeting, Taskforce member Kelli Schubert gave background on the individuals involved and on the overall process that was followed by the committee. Taskforce Chairperson Vincent Weimer then presented the recommendations of the Community Engagement Task Force to the community. “It was clear from our conversations that the community is interested in either updating our current facilities or building new school buildings. Once we obtained numbers for both, the committee recommends building new at the elementary (PK-4) level, updating the middle school, demolishing and rebuilding the high school sections built prior to 1976, and renovating the remaining sections of the high school. It does not make sense financially to simply renovate. The main finding of our taskforce members is that a basic renovation of the three elementary buildings (not including any additional 21st century learning or core space) would be more costly than new construction,” said Weimer.
For example, based on the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission (OFCC) report to the district, renovation of Albion Elementary would be $10.46 million. To build a new school, based on existing square footage of the current building, the cost would be approximately $11 million. This would be the case with the other two buildings roughly in the same condition with the same estimates. “When looking at numbers like this to build new vs. renovate existing structures, the committee must consider its options in building new,” said Weimer. Building one elementary school that would be home to preschool through fourth grade would cost approximately $32.2 million. Building two new elementary buildings would cost approximately $36 million.
Renovation to the middle school would cost approximately $13 million. The demolishing and rebuilding of all portions of the high school that were built prior to 1976 would cost approximately $24.5 million. Renovating portions that were built after 1976 would cost approximately $22 million. “This option was discussed because once again, when weighing the cost of renovating vs. new, it makes more sense economically to build new,” said Weimer.
Option two that was presented to the community was renovation of all buildings. The OFCC report states that renovating all buildings would total approximately $81 million. Renovating would maintain learning spaces in a traditional setting with no additional learning or core spaces at the elementary level. Additional funds would be needed to bring the facilities up to 21st century standards for education.
"We received balanced and unbiased feedback through our community meetings, outreach and coffees and it has been a wake up call for many of us,” said Scott Amick, parent and Taskforce committee member. “I for one thought the schools were in much better condition than they actually are. I can only hope that we effectively communicated the facts to our community. While we were not unanimous in our decision, I am fully confident that we as a committee developed the best possible proposals for our children and community. Perhaps the most important piece I learned is how dedicated so many members of our community and schools are. No matter the outcome of our efforts, nothing will change the quality of these people in our community."
After the presentation, attendees were divided into small groups in the cafeteria to discuss what is being recommended and to provide the Board and Committee feedback on the options. It was stressed to the attendees that the group must first determine if the community supports a rebuild concept before the design process begins. “We will continue community discussions and also continue to allow the experts involved to guide this process, in respect to developing master plan and renovation and building costs,” said Weimer.
An important factor that is included in the Taskforce recommendations is a maintenance program. “Implementing on-going permanent improvement dollars to maintain our investment is critical,” said Weimer.
The Board of Education will have further discussion about the next steps to gathering community input at the February 4, 2016 Board of Education meeting.
“I am confident the citizens of North Royalton will acknowledge that excellent schools make the best communities, said Barbara Filipow, grandparent of children in the district and Taskforce committee member. “They will determine that our research reflects what is best for students. We must never forget that our children are our future.”
Click here for a PDF of the Taskforce presentation of February 1, 2016.