Kettering City Schools will break ground next month on three major school expansions as part of a $17.25 million plan to add all-day kindergarten and expand career tech offerings.
The district has also committed to moving its central offices out of the Barnes building on Far Hills Avenue this summer. Demolition of that building now is seen as likely.
Director of Business Services Ken Lackey said groundbreaking is expected at Fairmont High School, Southdale Elementary and Orchard Park Elementary quickly after the May 23 last day of school.
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Lackey said demolition of the 90-year old Barnes building — once Kettering’s high school — “is probably the direction we’re headed” because the building would need $7 million in work to meet a “warm, safe and dry” standard, and $17 million in renovations to be functional for the long term.
“Once we saw the final numbers on Barnes, we said, we could do that building, or we can do all these projects that we’ve committed to the community that we’d do,” he said. “We passed our levies to do these things at the school buildings for kids, and we felt pretty strongly that that’s where the money needed to go.”
In 2016, Kettering voters approved a permanent bond levy for facilities that generates about $4.2 million per year. In 2018, they approved a permanent 5.99-mill operating levy, in part to pay for staffing costs, including the kindergarten and career tech expansions.
High school: The 25,000 square-foot Fairmont High School addition, now budgeted at $8.5 million, will be open for the 2020-21 school year, according to Lackey. At Fairmont’s northwest corner, it will house the alternative education program for at-risk students that is currently at Barnes, plus a new cosmetology career-tech program that will both teach students and serve the public via its salon.
The construction trades program will move out of the existing high school into a larger space in the new addition, allowing a new medical assisting career-tech program to move into the existing high school in 2021-22.
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“From experience with other schools, cosmetology is a very popular program, particularly for female students who are looking to be career-ready coming out of high school,” Lackey said. “Most of our other programs (that go straight from high school to career) have been more male-dominated, with construction trades and automotive.”
Elementary schools: Southdale and Orchard Park will get new four-classroom additions nearing 5,000 square feet each as part of the kindergarten plan, at a combined cost of $3.5 million.
Southdale’s addition will be on the southeast corner of the building, requiring relocation of the concrete playground and traffic flow. Orchard Park’s addition will be attached to the gym.
Space needs for kindergarten and existing classes varied at Kettering’s eight elementaries based on enrollment trends. Lackey said the district will also convert a locker bay area at JFK Elementary into multiple classrooms and add a classroom at Prass Elementary from existing space.
All Kettering elementary schools will launch full-day kindergarten this fall, which Lackey said will make some buildings “very tight, but manageable” for a year while construction is ongoing.
Barnes/administration: Kettering’s central office staff will move in late spring and summer from the Barnes building to the office buildings at 500 and 580 Lincoln Park Drive, near Fraze Pavilion. Lackey said the district struggled to find a new home with enough square footage and a central location before settling on these buildings.
What’s next? Superintendent Scott Inskeep said Kettering schools has no more major projects on the drawing board after these, adding that money is in place for ongoing maintenance and “the district should be set for a long time.”
“All the facility pieces are a mechanism to reach the goals of the strategic plan,” Inskeep said. “From all-day kindergarten to enhanced career tech opportunities, to the theater and athletic programs, we want to provide those opportunities for kids … and help our graduates prepare to be successful beyond high school.”
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