Thursday, November 15th, 2007
By Janie Southard
St. Marys school construction likely in '09
  ST. MARYS - Passing the levy last week was the first step toward a new school. What's next will come in seven phases beginning with a year of predesign and design, according to the project manager.
Fanning/Howey's Rod Wiford, project manager for the school construction/renovation project in St. Marys, gave school board members an outlook at Wednesday's board meeting of what to expect during the next few years. Construction of the 6-12 grade building is expected to begin in the spring of 2009.
Completion target is within two years of actual construction, making the first year of classes in the new school to begin with the 2011-2012 school year.
The first phase, which will stretch over 2008, will focus on design and researching predesign issues such as what is required to boost the students' educational opportunities. One example is in the various science labs. What type lab tables, technology, etc. will be included in the lab design?
"For the most part the next year will be busy but primarily behind the scenes. The foundation will be dug in 2009, and I think that's when the reality will hit that we will have a new school," said board President Rees McKee following the meeting.
The new school will be built on a 73-acre tract of land at the corner of U.S. 33 and state Route 66.
The core group for the project includes the construction manager (Gilbane Engineering of Columbus), Fanning/Howey Architects, a representative of the Ohio School Facilities Commission, the current district school principals, Superintendent Ken Baker, Business Manager Kurt Kuffner and two board members.
Renovations of East and West elementaries, along with the Dennings vocational building, will occur during the summers, concurrent with construction of the new school. No decision has been made on what will happen with the current junior high/high school building.
The board passed a resolution to issue bond anticipation notes in an amount not to exceed $25.75 million. This is to satisfy state statute that the local money must be secured before state funding will begin to flow.
Voters last week passed a 6.9-mill levy that will bring in $25.75 million toward the $55 million total project, with the Ohio School Facilities Commission funding the remaining $29.25 million.
"We will begin collecting the tax in 2008, which is more efficient as it will get our money flowing in order to get the state portion into the district," Baker told board members.
The state portion already has been set aside at the state level but not yet paid to the district.
Board member Lisa Tobin was the lone dissenter on the vote to move kindergarten entrance date cutoff from Sept. 30 to July 31, beginning with the 2008-2009 school year.
East Elementary School Principal Sue Sherman explained that currently students must be 5 years old by Sept. 30. However, several years ago the state provided the option of changing the entrance date to July 31.
"Both Wapakoneta and Celina have adopted the July entrance date. For consistency I recommend we change our date also," Sherman said, explaining that it is not unusual for kindergartners to move into and out of neighboring districts as their families move.
"It's possible that our kindergarten student could move into one of these district and not be permitted to attend because of age," she said, adding that Celina does permit the St. Marys youngster to attend class.
Tobin said following the meeting she questions where this date moving will end.
"What (I) want is 6 year olds in the first grade," she said.
Obviously should the date continue to move back, although there appears to be no current plans for this action in St. Marys, students could begin first grade close to 7 years old.
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