Posted: 6:00 p.m. Monday, June 23, 2014

$11M to renovate South High heralded as community win


$11M to renovate South High heralded as community win photo
Dr. David Estrop, Springfield City School District Superintendent, and Kim Fish, Communications & Special Projects Consultant for the district, look over plans for the renovation of the old South High School Monday. SCSD is part of a local consortium of schools that received an $11.3 million grant Friday to fund the renovations. Bill Lackey/Staff

By Katie Wedell

Staff Writer


The news of the approval of an $11.3 million state grant to renovate South High School was greeted with excitement on Monday. Springfield City School District administrators are hoping that enthusiasm translates into more partners lending their support to the creation of a regional college and career readiness hub.

“It will become a center of educational innovation in this city, and hopefully in this state and even the Midwest,” said Springfield Superintendent David Estrop.

The Straight A grant — awarded to a consortium made up of SCSD, Clark-Shawnee Local School District, Springfield-Clark Career Technology Center and the Global Impact STEM Academy — will be combined with $1 million in state capital funds appropriated to Clark State Community College earlier this year and about $1 million in private donations to create the Greater Springfield Career ConnectED Center.

The STEM school will move into the building for the 2015-16 school year. The center will offer professional development for teachers, college readiness assessments, career exploration and internship opportunities for students in all the partner districts with a focus on the fields of computer science, manufacturing, food and bio-sciences.

Industry and higher education partners including Clark State and Wright State University, Navistar, the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory and LexisNexis have already pledged support for the center.

“A lot of people wanted to see this happen, so we could better prepare the students in this area to enter college and careers,” Estrop said.

The 103-year-old building, which has been vacant for about five years, will undergo renovations to classroom space to create more hands-on labs and will get infrastructure upgrades to accommodate modern technology. SCSD Communications & Special Projects Consultant Kim Fish said some portions of the building, including the front entrance way, need a lot of work, while others like the library beneath the iconic glass dome are still in good shape.

“This project touched so many people in so many different ways, because this is a gorgeous historic building that goes a long way back in the history of this community,” Estrop said. “We’re going to be able to save this historically significant building and make good use of it as an ongoing educational facility.”

“I know a lot of people have a personal tie to the building, so I’m glad they’re not going to just tear it down,” said Abby Boswell, whose mother taught at South High.

Finding a use for the beloved building has been a goal for many in the community, said Mayor Warren Copeland. He said it’s fitting that the building will be restored to its educational roots.

“I think it will be a real step forward for the community,” Copeland said.

The former high school is located on South Limestone Street, one of the main arteries into downtown. Those who have worked to preserve and redevelop the south side neighborhoods surrounding it said the building’s reuse is a point of pride.

The decision nearly a decade ago to locate the combined Springfield High School on the north side of town was “gut-wrenching,” according to South Fountain Preservation Society President Ben Babian.

“It was a pretty big loss for the south side,” he said. “This certainly is, at least, an emotional uplift.”

Babian said having the school in use could also mean an economic boost as people continue to invest in nearby housing.

More than $65 million in both public and private money has been poured into reshaping the city’s south side in the past decade — including the $20 million Hope VI project, which rebuilt Lincoln Park, and the $8 million renovation of the Rocking Horse Center across the street from South High.

“South High is an essential part of the South Limestone corridor,” said Springfield Community Development Director Shannon Meadows. “This is a win for the entire community.”

GISA was also part of another statewide consortium which will receive $13.5 million from the Straight A fund. The “College Ready Ohio” effort is headed up by Ohio State and seeks to increase access for high schoolers to online college-level courses.

Thirty-six Straight A Grant applications out of 335 were approved.

Staying with the story

The Springfield News-Sun brings you unmatched coverage of local schools. Reporter Katie Wedell has been following the effort to land the Straight A grant for several months, and the paper has reported extensively on the effort to renovate South High School.

Career ConnectED Center by the numbers:

$11.3 million awarded by Ohio Department of Education

5,343 students in four partner schools will have access to college and career exploration opportunities

$2.5 million in projected savings by sharing space among several districts


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