The Northeastern Local School Board likely will ask voters to support a bond issue to build two new pre-kindergarten through 12th grade schools, keeping the district’s high schools split.
The board voted 4-1 Wednesday night to allow Superintendent John Kronour to ask the Ohio School Facilities Commission for money to build the two schools. The schools are projected to cost about $116 million.
The school board has debated for several years whether Northeastern should consolidate the district’s two high schools. The district is the second largest in Clark County and the last here to have multiple high schools. The school board held several community forums on the issue, and last week said the feedback they got indicates that the best chance at new buildings is to keep the district divided.
“I can speak for every one of us that we read (emails) carefully and considered all aspects of every one of them,” board member Steve Schwitzable said. “There was nothing that caused me to change my mind. I am still of the opinion I think one high school building is the best educationally, financially. But I don’t think it will pass and I think we can do very well with two pre-k through 12th buildings.”
The plan would call for one school to be built in Northridge close to Kenton Ridge High School and the other will be built in South Vienna near Northeastern High School. That’s contingent on voters approving a $77.5 million bond issue this November.
The state likely will kick in $38.5 million if the bond issue passes.
School Board President Chris James and board members Joel Augustus, Jill Parker and Schwitzable voted for the two new schools. James and Parker said they believed two schools were the best option for students in the district, while Augusts and Schwitzable said they believed one high school was likely better for education, but they didn’t think that voters would approve a bond issue asking to consolidate schools.
This option was supported over a second option to build three new school buildings in the district. That would have included two new pre-k through eighth-grade buildings and one new high school, costing the district about $123.8 million — about $83.8 million would have fallen to taxpayers to cover.
That plan was supported by board Vice President Jeff Caivano, who said he wants to consolidate the high schools to offer more opportunities for students. He called the decision to build two new buildings instead of the one high school an “awful mistake.”
EARLIER COVERAGE: Northeastern residents split on $100M plan for new schools
He said picking the two building option because voters would be more likely to support it wasn’t a good idea and that the board has a responsibility to choose the best option for the students regardless of public opinion.
“Neither one of these plans are going to be easy to pass,” he said. “I feel it is our job as a board not to sit back as a board and say, ‘We know it’s not best academically, financially, but we think this is going to pass.’”
Caivano said if the two schools combined, he believed it could be the crown jewel of Clark County offering students a competitive curriculum along with saving hundreds of thousands of dollars a year in staffing and services.
“Let’s build an academic powerhouse,” he said before the vote.
The vote doesn’t put the bond issue on the November ballot, it was only to prompt Kronour to start the process with the Ohio School Facilities Commission to get money for the schools. Board members will have to vote again later on a bond issue.