The Springfield News-Sun has closely followed developments with the Urbana City Schools building project, including disputes between the city and the school district over road construction, as well as concerns over a proposed construction site’s proximity to a landfill.
The Urbana City School District will begin construction on a new high school building first, after setbacks in finding a site for the district’s new pre-kindergarten through 8th grade building.
The district originally intended to start construction on the pre-k-8 building before the high school, to better accommodate students during the construction process, but has decided to move forward with the high school construction to keep the $68 million project on track, Urbana City Schools Superintendent Charles Thiel said.
“We’ve kind of reversed course,” Thiel said. “The high school is scheduled to be open probably four months earlier than what we originally anticipated.”
The district hit road blocks with the property it planned to build the pre-k through 8th grade school on, Thiel said, and is looking to purchase another property nearby.
The entire project is now expected to be completed about 3 to 4 months later than originally anticipated, he said.
First steps to construction begin
The new high school will be built on the same property as the old one, 500 Washington Avenue, Urbana. Classrooms in a wing of the current school have been emptied in preparation for excavation of the building this summer, Thiel said, and demolition of the wing is planned for the fall.
“It’s the first real signal that something’s changing,” Thiel said. “It’s good to be able to see the physical process.”
Construction on the new high school is planned for late winter of 2017, he said, and is intended to be completed by spring of 2018.
High School students and 8th graders will be transferred to other wings of the building during construction, he said, and 6th and 7th graders, who also attend school on the property, will be housed at the Urbana Local School, 2468 Ohio 54.
“We’re trying to reduce that impact for our students,” Thiel said.
Students in 6th and 7th grade who want to participate in music programs will go to the high school building in the mornings for those classes, he said. Students who participate in after school sports will also go to the high school building to use its facilities.
“That’s probably the biggest change,” he said.
District investigates new site for pre-k through 8th grade building
After problems with the district’s planned building site for the pre-kindergarten through 8th grade building, Thiel said, it’s looking to purchase a piece of land on U.S. 68 North of Campground Road, outside the city limits.
The school board intended to build on a piece of property purchased in 2004, he said, near Champaign Family YMCA on Community Drive. But the district was notified by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency it would have to install explosive gas monitoring systems in the building, Thiel said, because of concerns with methane gas contamination from a closed landfill nearby.
That and the city’s request the district build streets at the site caused the district to look elsewhere, he said.
The district will save roughly $1 million in construction of streets by moving the site, he said, and about $300,000 in work that would have been needed to level the property.
An investigation into the new site to determine if it will fit the district’s needs is ongoing, he said. The district is working with officials from the city of Urbana, Urbana Twp. and the Ohio Department of Transportation, he said, to determine traffic needs on U.S. 68 should the school be built on the site.
Traffic needs will have to be addressed on the busy road for the safety of the children, Urbana resident Charles Williams said.
“That might be troublesome for walking kids,” Williams said. “Because a lot of kids walk to school.”
But Williams believes the district is on the right track.
“I think it’s a brilliant idea to put [the school] on the edge of town,” he said.
Annexing into the city
For the pre-k through 8th grade building to use the city of Urbana’s water and sewer services on the U.S. 68 property, it will have to be annexed into the city, Urbana Community Development Manager Doug Crabill said.
The school district wants to annex into the city, Thiel said, so it won’t have to build its own water and sewer treatment plant.
“We really are not opposed to annexation,” he said. “We just want to make sure that it doesn’t impede our process.”
The annexation process will likely take about six months, Crabill said, and the district may have to wait until then to get its building permits for the site.
The Urbana City School Board, Urbana Twp. and the City of Urbana will meet on Monday to discuss annexation options, Crabill said.
“We’ll talk through those issues and how we can move forward and not cause any delay in construction,” Crabill said.
Construction on the pre-k through 8th grade building is now intended to be completed around fall of 2018, Thiel said.