VINCENT - The Warren Local Board of Education voted Tuesday to seek bids for more than $1 million in facility repairs, even as they heard estimates for potential school construction projects.
The board voted 5-0 at its regular meeting Tuesday to allow Superintendent Tom Gibbs to prepare specifications and advertise for bids for roof repairs at Warren High School and Little Hocking Elementary School, boiler replacements at the high school and Warren Elementary School, construction of a pump station to improve water pressure at the high school, an electrical upgrade at Warren Elementary and purchase of a work truck for the maintenance department.
"In large part, we're trying to prioritize and just make whatever movement forward we can," Gibbs said.
The repairs will be funded with permanent improvement money set aside when the district made $1.3 million in cuts last year - including the elimination of high school busing - following the third failure of a bond issue to build all new schools in the district. A fourth attempt also failed, as did a modified proposal to build three new elementary schools and a middle school.
Tuesday's vote came after the board heard a presentation from Jeffrey Tuckerman, with Canton-based Hammond Construction, the manager for a potential district project, about changes to the Ohio School Facilities Commission's rules and estimates on how much it would cost to build a new high school.
Tuckerman said demolishing the current high school and building a new one for grades nine through 12 would cost $29,761,418, with the local share being $10,714,111. To make the new facility a combined middle school-high school complex for grades six through 12, the cost would be $47,070,608, with a $16,945,419 local share.
District officials had expressed interest in a third option - demolishing most of the high school but keeping building 6, which houses the gym and auditorium, and renovating it. To do that with state funds would cost less overall, $45,714,686, but require more local funds, $19,114,112, Tuckerman said. That's because the state will only pay for the cost of a new building and the district would have to make up for the difference in renovating the existing building to current state standards.
Gibbs said the district could take the second option but still leave building 6 standing and upgrade the auditorium as a local project. That would exempt the district from the OSFC standards for an auditorium.
"That $2 million (in additional local funds) would go much further in my opinion," Tuckerman said.
Tuckerman said projects involving demolishing, renovating and adding on to existing facilities are becoming more common around the state.
"Your high school is a great candidate for that, just by the way it was built," he said, pointing to the multiple buildings that comprise the school.
Gibbs also noted the district would not necessarily have to tear down the high school, but could instead opt to raze an older elementary school and put the new high school there.
"So we could build a new high school and move the elementary into the existing high school," board member Bob Crum said.
No decision was made, and Gibbs said he does not expect the board to put anything before voters until the November general election at the earliest.
Gibbs said he factored the possibility of a new high school into his recommendations for construction projects to be put out for bid. Some of them would involve portions of the high school that would be demolished if the plans outlined came to fruition, including an estimated $100,000 to replace the boiler in building 4, which dates back to the building's construction in 1960.
"If it goes down, we lose that whole building," he said. "We really need to stop talking about it and get that fixed."