By Kevin Kelley
Residents worried that Fairview High School’s picturesque brick facade along tree-lined West 213th Street will disappear can probably relax. The prospect that the high school will be demolished and replaced with a new building now appears dim.
The Fairview Park City Schools’ Facilities Advisory Committee will present five options for improvements to the district’s buildings at public forums April 25 and 28 at Gilles-Sweet Elementary School.
One option includes demolishing Fairview High School and the adjoining Lewis F. Mayer Middle School. However, both Superintendent Bill Wagner and the consulting firm hired by the district say that option is unlikely.
A big reason is money. The district still is paying off $23.5 million in bonds that funded the construction of Gilles-Sweet Elementary School. Through a formula, state law sets a limit on how deeply a district can go into debt through voted bond issues. The demolition-construction option is estimated to cost $52.9 million, according to representatives of Architectural Vision Group Ltd., the consulting firm.
“Realistically, that’s not a viable option because the district can’t afford it,” Wagner said Monday night at a meeting of the Facilities Advisory Committee. The district would likely have to wait until more of the Gilles-Sweet bonds were paid off before going with that option, Wagner told West Life.
Wagner said the district has an obligation to at least present the new-building option to Fairview Park residents. Originally the district was looking at obtaining financial assistance from the Ohio School Facilities Commission, which potentially could fund 11 percent of any facilities project. But the OSFC favors rebuilding over renovations if the cost of renovations is two-thirds or more than that of rebuilding. However, the committee is leaning against pursuing OSFC funding because its guidelines call for spending in areas the district does not deem necessary.
Wagner said he also senses that public opinion is largely against tearing down Fairview High School and constructing a new building.
“There seems to be a lot of support for keeping the original structure and doing remodeling,” the superintendent told West Life.
All five options under consideration include $4.9 million in improvements at the district’s Early Education Center, also known as Parkview School, on Mastick Road. The roof, HVAC system, fire alarm system and windows would be among the items replaced.
The five options also include $263,000 in upgrades to the electrical and information technology systems at Gilles-Sweet Elementary School, which opened in 2007. The OSFC guidelines would have mandated about $3 million in upgrades to that school, Wagner noted.
The first option, which Wagner calls the “warm, safe and dry option,” would replace aging infrastructure (HVAC, plumbing, sprinkler system, etc.) at the high school-middle school and move the maintenance rooms farther east to allow for easy access. Secure entrances would also be built. That option, including the work at the other two buildings, would cost about $29 million.
Option two includes all the infrastructure work in the first option and also reconfigures the area east of the original building. A new cafeteria and courtyard would be constructed on the first floor. The total cost would be about $32.6 million.
Option three consists of the first option plus an addition to Lewis F. Mayer Middle School along Campus Drive. Originally proposed in 2005 as part of the Gemini Project, the addition would establish a courtyard at the center of the middle school. The total cost: $31.6 million.
Option four, which is emerging as the most ambitious yet realistic plan, combines all elements of the first three options at a total cost of $35.2 million.
With regard to option five, no drawings have even been prepared of what a new high school-middle school would look like. Wagner said, given the costs, that task would not be undertaken unless the community strongly favors new construction.
Each of the five options would requires that the district go to voters to approve a capital funding program, Wagner said. The district plans to use about $10 million from its operation surplus toward the facilities project, although that amount will not be deposited in a single payment. Instead, the surplus will be utilized through a financial instrument known as a certificate of participation, which works like a lease-purchase arrangement, district Treasurer Amy Hendricks said.
As a result, the district will only need to borrow $25 million for option four. The additional tax on homeowners to fund that project would be about $98 per year per $100,000 of home valuation, Wagner said.
All five options will be discussed in depth at the public forums at 7 p.m. April 25 and April 28, scheduled for Gilles-Sweet Elementary School, 4320 W. 220th St.