Aurora schools seeking space

By Jen Hirt Record-Courier staff writer Published:

Building a new elementary or intermediate school could be a recommendation as a facility committee formed to evaluate the district sifts options regarding the next logical step for the schools in this community, which is among Portage County's fastest growing.

A recent community forum attracted about 120 residents, who were grouped together to sift through four building options for the school district.

The four options for increasing space included various combinations of renovations, expansions, and new buildings, with estimated costs ranging from $9 million to $18 million.

Recommendations of those attending the forum are being tabulated by DeJong & Associates, with the results to be announced at a May 20 meeting. The 38-member acilities committee, chaired by retired Shaker Heights principal Al Zimmerman, will forward its plan to the Board of Education for approval.

"The key is finding out what people feel comfortable with," said Zimmerman. "We are aware that Aurora is growing. We know our needs. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see that the schools are at capacity."

Superintendent James Costanza gave a very early, very cautious hint at what appeared to be the favorite option. "We could be looking at a new intermediate school or new elementary to replace Craddock Elementary."

Voters, therefore, could be seeing additional millage in support of a building bond issue. Zimmerman confirmed that the Board of Education is anticipating a November bond issue.

The options were created following the first Facilities Committee meeting, which was held in February, when 150 participants agreed on 17 to 20 students per classroom as the optimum size at the elementary level and 20 to 24 at the middle school level. They also set a limit of 300 to 400 students per elementary building, and 600 in middle school buildings.

"Option A," for example, priced at $13 million to $15 million, provided for renovating Miller Elementary School into a 200-student kindergarten center; renovating Craddock Elementary School; constructing a new, 600-student elementary school for third- and fourth-graders; and keeping the middle school the same.

Zimmerman said that elements of "Option A" were the most popular. Committee members also are waiting for the state's decision on mandating all-day kindergarten. "We need to plan for that," he said.

A project of that magnitude would require about a 2.867-mill levy to support building bonds at 5.5 percent interest. That would mean the owners of a $200,000 home would pay about $180 in additional annual property taxes.

In the meantime, Miller Elementary students will be using a modular classroom next year. The unit is being moved from the high school.

The most recent bond issue posted by Aurora was in November 1994, when voters approved a 3.3-mill bond issue for a $12.2 million renovation project at the high school.

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