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Renovations on the horizon

Alissa Widman Neese • Feb 16, 2014 at 11:30 AM

Vermilion Schools is poised to begin the second phase of its facilities project: more than $7 million in renovations to its high school and middle school.

The district’s campus construction project began this past summer, when builders broke ground on a new elementary school. The 60,000-square-foot facility is steadily taking shape on the corner of Sailorway Drive and Douglas Street.

Despite this winter’s ferocious weather and freezing temperatures, the building is both on time and within its budget, superintendent Phil Pempin said this week.

Students should move into the new building after Christmas break next school year, he said.

“It’s going to lend itself to a new type of blended, project-based learning, and we’re very excited,” Pempin said. “The Ohio School Facilities Commission is talking about using this building as a model for the state. We’re looking forward to getting students and teachers in there as soon as possible”

Pempin briefed community members about the status of the project at two meetings this month, highlighting plans to soon increase efficiency and cut costs at the district’s two existing buildings.

Imminent renovations include:

•Installing new tile floors for parts of the middle school.

•Installing energy efficient upgrades at both buildings, including lighting, windows, doors, heating and air conditioning units.

•Closing the current board office on Beechview Drive and moving its operations to the high school building counseling offices, consolidating all district services onto a single school campus.

•Moving high school counseling offices to a large, repurposed room in the building’s south end.

•Renovating the high school music wing, while repurposing the current high school weight room into music and band storage space.

•Constructing a new, standalone weight room connected to the high school gym.

•Moving the district’s work force development program to the high school’s north end.

•Improving outdoor lighting on the school campus.

The total project will cost about $20 million, with $12.75 million allotted for the new building and $7.25 million for renovations, treasurer Ryan Lockwood said.

All renovations will likely be finished by late 2015, Pempin said.

Vermilion Schools is using a special financing plan, Certificates of Participation, which allows it to avoid asking taxpayers for new money to complete the project. The district effectively leases the facility during construction, then eventually assumes ownership of the new building.

Once completed, the district will likely save $400,000 annually because of its consolidated services, $200,000 annually because of energy savings, and $500,000 because of decreased maintenance, Lockwood said.

In time, the total savings will essentially pay for the entire project’s cost, he said.

Also at Monday’s meeting, Vermilion school board members discussed finalizing the sale of the district’s old Lake School building to the YMCA of Greater Cleveland, its longterm lessee. Vermilion Schools will receive $100,000 for the building.

The process is still in the works and should be finalized in March, after the organization has finished reviewing paperwork, Pempin said.

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