Warren discusses schools project

VINCENT — The $61 million project to rebuild Warren Local Schools is moving ahead, but not in any immediately visible way.

The district board of education on Monday night approved entering into agreements with the primary companies that will do the work on designing, building and certifying the new elementary and high schools and the redesign and expansion of the middle school. Fanning Howey of Columbus will be the architecture and engineering firm, Barton Malow of Michigan will be the construction-manager-at-risk, and Motz Engineering of Cincinnati will be the commissioning authority.

Superintendent Kyle Newton told the board the project is now in the Program of Requirements stage, a preconstruction phase in which the fundamental outlines of the project are established by using criteria from the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission. It also includes taking trips to see what other schools have done and the process of visualizing what Warren might do with those ideas and its own, he said.

“It’s taking what the state says from the design manual. How many classrooms do we need in the high school, for example. It’s a giant spreadsheet that involves square footage, student numbers, divisioning — we could have flexible spaces for multiple purposes — so before we design what it looks like, we have to design what we’re going to get,” he said.

At the end of each design phase, he said, the board needs to approve it with a vote.

“The scope — the number of classrooms for each subject, the size of the gym, how much hallway, how many custodial closets and how big they are — is dictated by the Program of Requirements,” he said.

“It’s exciting,” he said, “and it’s tedious.”

Newton and district treasurer Melcie Wells showed the board a Google Drive account where all the project documents will be lodged and available to administration, staff and board for notes, updates and modifications in real time. “It’s an exploratory hub,” Newton said, opening documents that included suggestions and ideas from teachers with responses from administrators and others. “It’s real time work, back and forth.”

The board spent some time discussing the timing of a Jan. 11 meeting set for 4 to 6 p.m. as a visioning session for the community, led by Columbus consultant Kevin Harrison.

Board president Bob Allen, after being told the time had been proposed to fit in with Harrison’s availability, said he was concerned that the afternoon period would prove inconvenient or impossible for many residents, most of whom work, to attend.

“I suggest another week when we could schedule it to start at 6 or 6:30 p.m. I’d hate to think someone working for the district (Harrison) would schedule a meeting when the board and the community can’t be there,” Allen said. “It’s been agreed, and it shows in our minutes, that these meetings should be scheduled when people can attend them.”

Newton said he would contact Harrison to check his availability later in January.

Wells requested an appropriation from the board for $5 million to begin issuing purchase orders for construction costs. She explained that the district will receive quarterly drawdowns from the state funding, which is paying 61 percent of the costs, with the first scheduled to arrive Jan. 29.

The board will meet next Jan. 9 at 6 p.m. for an organizational meeting for the new board, and the regular monthly meeting will start after that.