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Thursday, May 10th, 2007

St. Marys school board considers locations

By Janie Southard
ST. MARYS - In a pair of meetings Wednesday night, board of education members took a step in resolving a million dollar question associated with the possibility of new schools: Location, location, location.
At the first meeting, facilities planning committee co-chair Bill Kellermeyer recommended the board approve a basic master plan and an assortment of locally funded initiatives. These initiatives are expenses the district must pay for and cannot include state money.
One locally funded initiative is the land on which a new school would sit and any necessary roadways and utility lines.
An executive session held Wednesday night to discuss acquisition of land represents the first substantive talk board members have had, board President Rees McKee said. An exploratory land committee consisting of McKee, Superintendent Ken Baker and board member Eric Langsdon also was established Wednesday night.
"We're working with a compressed time frame, so we need to get going on (the land selection) ... There are not a whole lot of choices," McKee said, adding that, although the community appears to believe the land is already in place, there are absolutely no arrangements in place.
He stressed the committee is just exploring possibilities. "We're not going to be out there writing checks," he quipped.
The board approved the facilities committee's recommended basic master plan, which carries a total cost of $45.94 million with the state funding $28.02 million of it through the Ohio School Facilities Commission (OSFC). The taxpayer's portion of $17.91 million in the basic plan does not include any locally funded initiatives.
The committee recommended the following locally funded initiatives: land and utilities; terrazzo flooring; fixed seat auditorium; expanding the size of high school gymnasium to a competition-sized gym; and buttoning up and reusing Cook Gym.
Athletic stadiums also are classified as locally funded with no state participation. The future of Skip Baughman Stadium, which lies in a flood plain, is an emotional and passionate issue for many St. Marys fans. A fair amount of the community is neutral on the matter.
Kellermeyer pointed out some specific needs if the present stadium is to be retained: sound system, lighting, playing surface, visitor seating, home/visitor locker rooms, concession facilities, restrooms, etc.
"If we get to $4 million in renovations, which is possible, why not consider a new stadium?" Kellermeyer asked.
He added the facilities committee thinks it would be worthwhile to investigate whether the stadium improvements could be reached through other means, such as Rider Rooters, corporate sponsorship, individual donations and the St. Marys Memorial High School Alumni Foundation.
But, as no state money will be involved, this is not a decision that demands immediate attention. Thus, the committee recommended the stadium issue be studied further and not be included in any ballot language.
The board needs to decide if it will accept the state's $28 million by the end of June, with board members planning to do this at the June 13 meeting. If they accept, they will have a year to raise the local share. One option is to go on the ballot in November. If that road is taken, ballot language must be in place by mid-August, according to Ohio law.
"That August date would be our deadline to come up with a location for any new facilities ... But, you know, we have options to accept state funding, decline funding or defer our decision for one year," McKee said.
In other action during the regular meeting, board members:
• Learned athletic director Jason Andrews has resigned and that more than 30 resumes have been received for the position. Andrews will be teaching at Elida next school year.
• Learned that, for the 22nd year, McBroom Principal Newt Triplett has donated his stipend for serving as student council adviser ($324) to the McBroom Junior High Trust Fund.
• Accepted $2,000 from AAP St. Marys for the mod tech program at the high school.
• Approved the athletic code of conduct policy as amended to be enforced year-round. Board member Craig Gottschalk voted no and later explained he does not believe students should be under such lengthy scrutiny year-round. His motion, which received no second, was that the policy be in effect for the particular sport season only.

Plan proposals:
St. Marys City Schools board of education approved Monday night the facility planning committee's recommended master plan.
That plan in its entirety is as follows:
• Decommission McBroom Junior High School and Memorial High School from educational use.
• Renovate East Elementary School.
• Renovate and add on to West Elementary School.
• Renovate the Dennings Vocational Building, keeping current programs at Dennings. Reprogramming and renovations

should cost about $1.13 million.
• Build a new middle school and high school in a single 6-12 grades complex that accommodates about 1,210 students. Keep agribusiness and marketing programs at the new high school; include more than 13,246 square feet for career tech programs at the high school. This portion of the project should provide a complex with 186,396 square feet and cost about $33.64 million.
The committee further recommended the board should decide whether the district remains with the current neighborhood schools structure or changes to a grade-level schools structure. All should be decided before placing any ballot initiative before the community.
If the community approves a ballot initiative, the board must decide whether to demolish existing facilities.
- Janie Southard
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