The highest-performing school district in the region operates in some of the oldest schools. Now Oakwood City Schools is asking residents to approve a new combination levy/bond that would raise money for $18 million in renovations to its 90-year-old schools, as well as pay for day-to-day operating costs.
Oakwood’s master planning process for facilities included options ranging from mere repairs to brand new buildings. The district settled on a May 7 bond issue to address only “foundational infrastructure repairs,” calling it Phase 1, with the possibility of asking voters to fund other parts of the four-phase plan years in the future.
Voters will cast a single vote on the combination plan. It includes a permanent 4.99-mill levy to pay for higher personnel and operating costs, costing $174.65 for a $100,000 home. The second part is a 37-year, 2.71-mill bond (costing $94.85). That makes the total cost $269.50 per $100,000 of property value.
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“We’re asking for what we need, when we need it,” Oakwood Superintendent Kyle Ramey said. “The operating levy is the lowest (millage) in 30 years. The buildings are over 90 years old. They’ve served us well and our community has said loud and clear that they want to keep them, and in order to keep them, we have to continue to invest in them.”
At a series of public meetings last year, Oakwood residents had mixed responses to the facilities options. Some raised concerns even about the repair-only proposals, citing school tax rates that are already the highest in the region.
FEBRUARY 2018: Oakwood proposals range from $48M to $102M
Others asked how much renovation is needed right away, and whether it will actually impact students’ education. But some residents pushed the district to invest now for the long-term, even if that meant constructing new buildings.
The district has since offered a detailed estimate of how the $18 million from the bond would be used, with work to be completed by fall 2021. Harman and Smith elementaries would get $1 million each for roofing, boiler replacement and restroom work.
The other $16 million would go to the junior high-high school complex — $7.2 million for heating/ventilation/air conditioning improvements, $3.9 million for roofing, and between $1 million and $2 million each for plumbing, electrical and technology/security upgrades.
In a video tour of the high school, Principal Paul Waller pointed out areas of water infiltration and wide temperature variations, adding that boilers are 60 years old, and aging pipes get frequent pinhole leaks. District officials said even the $18 million won’t cover all desired repairs, but will reduce ongoing maintenance costs and reduce energy consumption by 10 percent.
Ramey said the district has to find a sweet spot while weighing the rising cost of doing business, the various things the community wants and the programs educators say the students need to be positioned for success. Oakwood High School has recently ranked No. 1 in the state in Ohio’s measure of preparing students for success.
“We believe this is a great investment in our schools,” Ramey said. “We spend a little above the average and we perform well above the average. We push more money into the classroom than most of our comparable districts. And our students perform.”
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