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District explores building projects

Alissa Widman Neese • Sep 20, 2013 at 11:02 PM

At a meeting Monday, board members agreed to begin gathering information from the Ohio School Facilities Commission, a state organization that provides partial funding for construction or renovation projects it oversees.

The process is free and does not commit the district to a project, but it begins a necessary community conversation,superintendent Eugene Sanders said. The commission will analyze the district’s existing buildings, identify problem areas and provide cost estimates for various projects.    Estimates in previous years indicated the Ohio School Facilities Commission could cover about half the cost of a Sandusky Schools building project, Sanders said.

The district will host a series of meetings this fall to get community members involved in the facilities discussion, one at each district building. The first is 6 p.m. Monday at Hancock Elementary School.

The hour-long gatherings will include a brief presentation and an opportunity for audience members to ask questions and address any issues, not just facilities. The events are geared toward district parents, but anyone can attend.

“We want to talk specifically to each school community about our overall priorities for the district this year,” Sanders said. “It’s not exclusively about facilities, but having that discussion is one of our priorities.”

The district’s academic transformation plan will be another key point during the presentations.

Ultimately, academic plans and community member input will determine what facilities the district pursues, board president Faith Denslow said.

“You don’t plan around buildings, you build around your plan,” Denslow said. “With these conversations, we need to hear how parents feel about our academic direction and whether they think our facilities support that direction. If there isn’t a buy-in from the community, it isn’t the right time to build or renovate.”

Sandusky Schools has already hosted a few “Summer Conversation on the Future of our Schools” meetings with community stakeholders and organizations, with facilities a primary topic of discussion.

Sanders highlighted a possible timeline for a facilities improvement project during those meetings, designating the fall as a time to gather valuable information. Any decisions, such as confirming a project with the Ohio School Facilities Commission, likely won’t come until next summer.

Regardless of the final plan, Sandusky High School will remain standing, Sanders has said.

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