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10-09-02: St. Marys residents voice wishes for new school
The Daily Standard

    ST. MARYS - St. Marys school district residents on Tuesday night voiced concerns about economic matters and space needs at the second of three planning session for a proposed school construction project.
    School board members said they were happy the community has the same concerns the board is attempting to resolve by building new facilities and expanding current facilities.
    "People are seeing the same needs we see," board President John Lampert said after the meeting held at St. Marys East Elementary School. "Our current facilities are old and outdated. The residents are coming to the same conclusions we have made."
    School officials talked about wanting an affordable, cost-effective plan
for new school facilities that includes maximum use of the districtıs existing facilities.
    Proposed plans show a construction project costing between $45 and $51.7 million. The school district would be responsible for 38 percent, or between $17.1 to $19.7 million through a local tax levy. The rest of the cost would be funded through the state's Ohio School Facilities Commission (OSFC).
    Community members also told the board they want a spacious building with emphasis on scaled appropriate space and furnishings in elementary and middle school environments. They also want an appropriately sized cafeteria in the high school, low student/teacher ratios and adequate work space in the classrooms.
    The cafeteria in the current high school, built in 1923, is too small to fit all students. School officials have said this is a main reason the school still allows open lunch periods.
    Space problems also have resulted in higher student/teacher ratios than school administrators prefer, particularly in the high school and junior high buildings.
    "Any time you start looking at over 20 kids in a classroom, it makes me worry about individualized attention for each student," resident Marie
Bartlett said at the meeting. "I have a daughter that is going to West school. They have a large class and they are running out of space."
    Increased technology and on-hands learning in any new school facility also were suggested by community members.
    Alma Kuffner, who has several grandchildren in the school district, said she feels now is the time for new and improved facilities in St. Marys.
    "We've always taken care of everything by doing patchwork because we could never get funding passed," Kuffner said. "We have outdated facilities and not enough technology. We have the oldest school around. Wapakoneta has built two new schools since ours was built."
    Other issues brought up at the meeting were that the new school would attract industry and new residents to the area. Several community members also said they felt the best site for the new school would be along Ohio 29, where the school could be seen from the highway.
    Project Director Paul Mullin, with engineering firms Firestone, Jaros and Mullin of Powell and TMP Associates of Bloomfield Hills, Mich., briefly explained to residents the regulations of participating in an OSFC project. If the school accepts state money for the project, the district must follow state guidelines.
    The state has said the high school and junior high would have to be replaced because the buildings exist in a flood plain. State money could not be used to renovate those buildings if that's what the district decides.
    If plans move forward for the project, construction could begin in 2007 at the earliest. Superintendent Paul Blaine has said the earliest the community would be facing a bond levy would be May 2004.
    The final meeting of the three sessions is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Oct.
24 at East elementary school. Engineers will look at developing a final master plan.


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