Ravenna plans new high school

By Micah Panczyk Record-Courier staff writer Published:

"We're not talking about a nickel-and-dime project," Superintendent Philip Warner said during the board's open meeting, referring to a project that would put a new high school on 88 acres just south of Robinson Memorial Hospital on North Chestnut Street in Ravenna.

The project would cost between $27 million and $30 million, a range that assumes an enrollment of 1,500 students and would require voters to approve a bond issue, the value of which has not been determined.

Aiming to initiate action, Warner listed several construction goals and offered suggestions to attain them. The goals are to build eight tennis courts and a cross-country course by fall 1998, one baseball field and one softball field by spring 1999 and a football, track and soccer stadium that would house 6,000 to 7,000 patrons by fall 1999.

"The community deserves these things, as do our student athletes," Warner said. "Our coaches have said that having the athletic facilities in a central location would encourage student attendance and do a lot for school spirit."

The cost of these projects have been estimated at roughly $2 million _ money Warner hopes the district can raise in donations.

"The money is out there in the community," he said. "I'm confident that we can convince residents that we really need these facilities."

Board President Mark Hairston echoed Warner's thoughts. "I think the support is there," he said. "And I think these projects would really elevate community pride."

The school district will not be able meet the demands it faces in the next three to five years without a significant facilities expansion, Warner said.

"There are currently some 800 lots being prepared for homes within the area the district serves," Warner said. "We simply aren't physically equipped to handle this increase."

At present, the district has roughly 3,400 students. This figure would jump to 4,200 if each new home brought one new student _ a "conservative" estimate, Warner said.

Warner offered several suggestions to the board. First, he suggested that the district hire a "facilities task force" to solicit support from local contractors.

Second, Warner suggested the board hire an architect to determine the costs of grading the property, installing a driveway, parking lot and drainage and of building athletic fields.

Third, the board should hire a professional fund-raising consultant, Warner said. And fourth, the board should commission a study that would precisely predict the district's increasing enrollment.

The board will act on these suggestions at its October and November meetings, Warner said.

The district has roughly $170,000 in revenue derived from the sale of oil from the Chestnut Street property, Warner said. An additional source of money could be the sale of the Gilcrest Stadium property to industry _ a prospect Warner said was under preliminary consideration.

The district purchased the Chestnut Street property in the mid 1970s and proposed a bond issue that would have financed a new high school at that time. The issue, however, failed.

At that time, a new building would have cost between $8 million and $10 million, Warner said. "What will the cost be down the road if we continue to put this building off?" Warner asked. "The time to build is now."

In addition to the new facilities project, the district may spend over the next 5 years up to $8 million maintaining its existing facilities.

This money would be used for repairs to roofs, parking lots, classroom furniture, painting classrooms, remodeling science facilities, upgrading technology facilities and window and boiler upgrades, Warner said.

Roughly $300,000 would come annually from the general fund; roughly $380,000 is furnished by a permanent improvements levy, Warner said. The remainder would hopefully be furnished by grants, he said.

Last month, the district approved its permanent budget appropriations _

a budget which is solvent for the first time since 1992. The solvency

results from a pair of levies passed in 1995 and 1996. In the spring of

1995, voters approved a 6.65-mill continuing operating levy that

furnished roughly $1.5 million in additional funds annually, according

to Warner. In November of 1996, voters approved a 9.5-mill continuing

levy to replace an expiring 5-year emergency levy. This approval

continued the flow of $2.225 million annually into the district's treasury.

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