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District kicks off meetings

Alissa Widman Neese • Jan 11, 2014 at 9:40 PM

Piece by piece, Sandusky Schools is laying the foundation for potential building projects.

Officials kicked off a series of public meetings about the topic Thursday at Sandusky High School, where about 20 staff members, parents and community members gathered for preliminary discussions about the district’s facility needs.

Superintendent Eugene Sanders gave a 30-minute presentation and then offered guests an opportunity to ask questions.

Topics discussed included:

• The district’s transformation plan, which it will release in March 2014. It will lay out aggressive recommendations for the future of Sandusky Schools, including possible facility projects.

• The Ohio School Facilities Commission, a state organization that provides partial funding for construction or renovation projects it oversees. Currently, the commission would fund 54 percent of a Sandusky Schools project, with local taxpayers footing the remainder of the bill.

• The need for community members, parents, students and staff members to provide feedback about their goals for the plan and a possible partnership with the Ohio School Facilities Commission.

Thursday’s meeting was the first of more than a dozen scheduled meetings regarding the district’s transformation plans.

The open meetings, which will take place in almost all district buildings in January and February, aim to generate discussion about improving all aspects of Sandusky Schools. Anyone can attend.

Facilities will be the most-discussed issue, but other topics include athletics, academics, fine arts, food services and transportation.

The gatherings were slated to start Monday, but inclement weather forced officials to cancel several this week and reschedule them for later dates. Attendance Thursday was sparse, but Sanders said he’s hopeful future meetings will be well-attended.

He stressed no decisions have been made yet regarding facilities, but discussions must occur.

“I imagine, 100 years ago in Sandusky, people like us sat around and planned the future of this city,” Sanders said. “This is our time to wrestle with those tough decisions, and to determine if we’re brave enough, strong enough and visionary enough to lay the foundation for the next 50 to 75 years. I encourage all of us to be active participants in this process”

Here are some questions asked Tuesday, and a summary of how district officials responded to the concerns:

Q: Should we hold off on a building project, in hopes the Ohio School Facilities Commission could provide even more funding in the future?

A: It will likely be more advantageous to lock in a rate sooner than later, but the decision will be based on many variables, including community feedback and what new buildings we need, if any, to meet our academic needs. The amount of funding the Ohio School Facilities Commission provides fluctuates each year. It is related to the socioeconomic status of our district, as well as other districts in the state of Ohio.

Q: How would we determine how many buildings we need and what size they should be?

A: Our facilities must match our dynamic academic plan. No decisions have been made regarding the configuration of the grades in any future buildings, and the community must determine what best fits our needs. The only requirement from the Ohio School Facilities Commission is at least 350 students utilize any building we construct.

Q: Could other local institutions help pay part of a building’s cost?

A: Yes, local institutions, organizations and businesses could partner with us to provide funding for part of our buildings and also benefit from their construction.

Q: What is the average lifespan of a newly constructed school building today?

A: The Ohio School Facilities Commission estimates buildings typically last for 50 to 60 years, on average, but that is severely impacted by how well we take care of them. Our city and district has historically done a great job of taking care of even our oldest buildings.

Future Sandusky Schools transformation meetings

School facilities meetings locations:

• Ontario Elementary School: 6 p.m. Jan. 13

• Mills Elementary School: 6 p.m. Jan. 15

• Hancock Elementary School: 6 p.m. Jan. 21

• Osborne Elementary School: 6 p.m. Jan. 23

• Mr. Smith’s Coffee House: 10 a.m. Jan. 25

• Sandusky Middle School: 6 p.m. Feb. 4

• Venice Heights Elementary School: 6 p.m. Feb. 5

Other topics, all discussed at Sandusky High School

Food Services: 6 p.m. Jan. 14

Athletics: 5 p.m. Jan. 15

Fine Arts: 6:30 p.m. Jan. 15

Staff development: 4:30 p.m. Jan. 21

Transportation: 6 p.m. Jan. 21

Academics: 4:30 p.m. Jan. 22

Career Tech: 6 p.m. Jan. 22

Adult Education: 7 p.m. Jan. 22

If individuals are unable to attend a meeting, they can also email questions or comments to askdrsanders@scs-k12 .net.

Note: The academics, career tech, adult education and final two facilities meetings were previously scheduled for earlier this week, but were rescheduled because of inclement weather.

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