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09-22-06 Community members provide input at first public session

By Janie Southard

  ST. MARYS -- The school district and Fanning -- Howey Associates hosted a community meeting Thursday night seeking public input on school facilities: build, renovate or make do with what's there now.

Two-year-old Ava Gottschalk snoozes on Grandma Sue Eymer's shoulder during a break-out session at a public meeting to discuss school facilities in St. Marys. <br></br>

  About 60 people attended the meeting at St. Marys East Elementary School, and, after the breakout session, highlighted what they believe needs done and what preconceptions need to be addressed.

  "Bogus," was the pronouncement of Memorial High School senior Brandon Kill, representing his breakout group.

  "The idea that 'the (high) school (building) was good enough for me and it's good enough for my grandchildren' is just bogus," he said as he listed many areas that need updating and/or replacing. Among those concerns is parking, technology, classroom size, antiquated climate control and other burdens of an 85-year-old building.

  School board Vice President Craig Gottschalk and Fanning -- Howey representatives Steve Wilczynski, Gene Scholes and John Clark welcomed the group with the fine points of the Ohio School Facilities Commission.  OSFC is the multi-billion dollar initiative set in motion in 1997 by Senate Bill 102. The commission's charge is to provide funding, management oversight and technical assistance to Ohio school districts for construction and renovation of school facilities.

  St. Marys recently was moved from 244 in the ranking of districts to receive state funds to 234. The state finished 29 districts last year ending with 207.

  "It's fairly definite St. Marys will be eligible for funding in 2008 and possibly in 2007," said Wilczynski, Fanning/Howey principal in charge of the St. Marys project.

  The district is starting afresh with planning for OSFC funds. The 2001 levy, which voters nixed in 2001, and its inter-related master plan for new buildings are both past history.

  Options now run the gamut from do nothing to small additions/renovations to brand new facilities. At the end of the meeting each audience member received a handheld remote to vote on various possibilities.

  The group on Thursday night voted 74 percent for separate middle and high schools. Another vote showed 16 percent for grade level schools, as opposed to neighborhood schools as exists now.

  The majority favored keeping Skip Baughman Field at its current location.

  "We're extremely pleased with the number of people attending this evening. This is a great beginning," Scholes told The Daily Standard. "We'll take all we'll learn at these public meetings and inform the board of education (at the October 11 meeting)."

  The next three meetings, which will present the exact same format and information, are set for 7 p.m. Tuesday at West Elementary School, 7 p.m. Thursday at McBroom cafeteria and 10 a.m. Oct. 2 at the Community Public Library.


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