By Scott Halasz
XENIA — Voters in the Xenia Community School District are being asked to pass a levy in November to allow for construction of new high school/middle school complex.
If approved, Issue 21 will generate around $2.4 million annually for 37 years to pay for construction of a new high school and middle school complex where US Route 42 and US Route 35 meet.
The total cost of the project is approximately $64 million. If the 3.9-mill bond issue passes, it will cost the owner of a $100,000 home $136.50 per year — less than $12 a month — according to figures from Greene County Auditor David Graham.
The bond issue and construction are necessary because the current buildings are old and need many repairs to bring them up to code and to hold the projected student population, which is growing yearly. The Ohio School Facilities Commission, which is giving the district nearly $29 million to help fund the project, recommends replacement over renovation because the cost to renovate is at least 66 percent of the cost to construct new.
According to Glenn Rowell, a project manager with the OSFC, the commission sent a team to evaluate the buildings, which then came up with a renovation cost and compared it to the cost of building new.
Evaluators identified several issues including lack of fire suppression systems, water-damaged ceilings, building infrastructure that cannot support modern educational technology, rusted and collapsed pipes with failing shut-off valves, unreliable heating systems, and numerous issues with ADA compliance.
Also, according to the state’s assessment, both buildings are too small to accommodate projected enrollment and would require an addition.
In early 2016 the school district initiated a community engagement process to help gather input into plans to address the buildings. Warner was constructed in 1962, and Xenia High School in 1976. Initial discussions, which kicked off in February with the first of several community forums, began with creating an awareness of the age, condition, and limitations – as well as the costs associated – with the two buildings, according to Assistant Superintendent of Business Operations Christy Fielding.
The public was presented with three options in addition to the one chosen: Constructing two new buildings; constructing a new high school and converting the current high school into a junior high; and renovating and expanding the current buildings.
“This plan was selected for a number of reason, including the benefit of being more operationally cost-efficient than running two separate buildings in geographically separate locations,” Fielding previously said. “Eliminating construction costs associated with duplicating shared spaces like cafeterias, kitchens, auditoriums, and gymnasiums, along with a single mechanical and operational plant, were also viewed as having the potential to help with ongoing operating and maintenance costs down the road.”
Other appeals of the concept that surfaced during the community engagement process included increased and expanded opportunities for the students: more and earlier access to advanced classes and career training for middle school students and new peer-mentoring opportunities by older students, according to Fielding. Easing the transition from middle school to high school was also seen as a benefit with a combined school.
In addition, proximity would provide greater collaboration opportunities for teaching staff and make it convenient for parents to have one location for after-school events, extracurricular activities, and school-day drop-off and pick-ups, officials said.
There are other advantages, according to Superintendent Denny Morrison.
Among them are:
— The schools will be accessible from Route 35 running east and west and Route 42 which runs north and south.
— This site will help connect the west side of the community with the east side since there will be access via U.S. 42 and Bellbrook Road. It is surrounded by housing.
— This site has Route 42 at one access where there is already a widened road for turn lanes and a traffic light. The other access would be off of Bellbrook Road, which also has some road improvements due to its proximity to Route 35.
— Currently middle and high school students ride the same buses. This requires some students to ride to one building, drop students off and then go to their final destination. With the selected site, both the middle and high school students will have one drop-off location. It is surrounded by housing so the total number of students needing to be bused is anticipated to reduce.
— The intersection at Route 42 and Ledbetter Road will have a crosswalk to allow students to safely cross. This includes the Ledbetter and former Spring Hill Elementary neighborhood. Bellbrook Road will have a crosswalk to allow students from the Arrowhead neighborhood. The Little Miami scenic bike trail runs through the site so walkers/bikers should have a safe way to get to school since there are many ways to access the bike path throughout town. As an example, students in Wright Cycle Estates could access the bike trail and walk/bike to school with no need to walk over the highway.
If approved, construction would start in 2018 and be completed in 2020 according to school officials.
The money from the state is only available for one year.