Dayton schools close in on long-delayed headquarters move

Dayton Public Schools headquarters building, 115 S. Ludlow St. in downtown Dayton. JEREMY P. KELLEY/STAFF
Dayton Public Schools headquarters building, 115 S. Ludlow St. in downtown Dayton. JEREMY P. KELLEY/STAFF

After two years of delays, Dayton Public Schools expects clearance to move into its new headquarters building this fall. But distancing concerns tied to the coronavirus pandemic mean that move may happen in phases.

DPS Business Manager Gary Dickstein told the school board this week that the buildings at 124-136 S. Ludlow St. (50 yards from the current central offices), were “90% complete.” He said only small steps remained on flooring, painting, LED fixtures, cubicle construction and audio/video equipment in the board room.

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“We anticipate and can’t see any obstacles to getting our final building inspection and our occupancy permit somewhere between Aug. 31 and Sept. 11 if everything moves according to plan,” Dickstein said.

DPS has operated from the former Reynolds & Reynolds buildings at 115 S. Ludlow St. since buying the properties for $15.5 million in 2003. But in recent years, district officials said the property required expensive upkeep and was more space than they needed for top leadership, enrollment, human resources and other downtown staff.

In 2018, DPS leadership began a plan to move their 150 central office employees across Ludlow Street from the 150,000 square-foot complex to another 70,000 square feet of vacant space DPS owned.

But delays and cost overruns have been frequent, after teams used 23-year-old building drawings to start the work, rather than verifying details first. Dickstein said the construction process has included 145 “requests for information” on changes. The cost of the move across Ludlow Street may surpass $4 million.

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Dickstein said the board likely will be asked to approve a contract next month for the last big step — paving and creating controlled access to a parking lot for employees across Fifth Street behind Spaghetti Warehouse.

School board President Mohamed Al-Hamdani raised concerns about the ability to socially distance employees in the new, smaller space. Dickstein said the board could discuss how to do the move in phases “so we don’t have people working on top of each other.”

Once the move is complete, the next question is what will happen to the 115 S. Ludlow headquarters. DPS leaders have had discussions of selling or leasing it, especially given the ongoing development of the Arcade complex, just steps away across the Fourth and Ludlow intersection.

But Al-Hamdani cautioned this week that DPS still owes a large debt on the existing headquarters, calling the $15.5 million purchase price “obscene.” The Montgomery County Auditor valued the site at $5.75 million last year.

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“If those (former) board members are watching this, they’re probably upset with me saying it was an obscene amount of money, but it was an obscene amount of money for that board to spend,” Al-Hamdani said. “We are way underwater when it comes to paying off this building.”

Al-Hamdani said the board would talk to DPS’ treasurer and another financial consultant about possible next steps.

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