AURORA — New tennis courts, a new chiller (air conditioning) unit for the high school and two new buses are among facility upgrades being considered by the local Board of Education.

Those amenities and others, plus formulation of a strategic vision, security issues and the high school’s Drug Free Club, were discussed Feb. 7 at the Board’s special work session. 

Superintendent Pat Ciccantelli said the district has obtained price quotes from three companies, and he will soon recommend to the Board that Nagle Athletic Surfaces be awarded a contract for the courts.

He noted the cost will be about $310,000. The city has budgeted $100,000 this year to cover its share of the project. 

Ciccantelli said Nagle does most of the work, except fencing and concrete finishing. Six courts are planned to replace the current deteriorating six situated between Harmon School and Veterans Stadium.

The high school girls and boys tennis teams have not used the courts for several years, instead renting facilities at Barrington and Western Reserve Racquet and Fitness Club.

Treasurer Bill Volosin said rental fees for those facilities this school year are $9,612.

Ciccantelli said three of the courts may be set up for pickleball, a popular paddle sport that combines elements of badminton, tennis and table tennis.

He added the United States Tennis Association could provide $10,000 to $20,000 toward the project, but only if all six courts are painted with junior tennis lines. If only three courts are, the contribution likely would be minimal.

Another funding source could be sponsorships from area businesses, and Ciccantelli said firms could have courts named after them for a contribution.

Ciccantelli said a new 300-ton chiller at AHS likely will cost in the upper $300,000 range. The current unit was installed in 1996. It would take about 15 weeks to complete the project, which likely would be done over the summer.

Ciiccantelli said two new buses likely will be purchased this year at a cost in the high $80,000 range per bus. He said buses last about 15 years, and the district uses 28 for daily runs, plus has four or five as spares.

The district is looking at replacing security cameras on school grounds. Ciccantelli said the existing cameras are about 10 years old, and much better technology is available now.

The cameras would cost a little over $40,000, but that could be reduced by two-thirds if the district can land an Ohio Bureau of Workman’s Compensation safety intervention grant.

Another purchase the district is considering are GPS monitoring devices for buses, which would allow parents to know exactly where buses are traveling around town through the use of an app.

Ciccantelli said the initial cost for the devices would be about $35,000, plus $8,000 per year after that.

The district also is looking at hiring a "quasi uniformed" and armed security guard to patrol buildings and grounds. Ciccantelli said the position could be filled by a retired police officer.

Other possible projects in the near future are repaving of parking lots, roof repairs and replacements and upgrades of Veterans Stadium restrooms.

All of the above projects / purchases are in the district’s 2019 budget, and Volosin said the money would come from the permanent improvement levy and general fund.

ADDITIONAL UPDATES

The superintendent outlined plans to establish a strategic vision for the district, with the first step being formation of a group of 30-some teachers, administrators, board members and residents to study six to eight focus areas.

He said the group will meet from March to May, then take their ideas to the public for input and have a document ready for adoption by the Board this fall. That document eventually will lead to goals being established.

The group also may visit other districts to see what innovative programs they have in place. One such possibility is the Willoughby-Eastlake district’s School of Innovation.

Ciccantelli said AHS’s Drug Free Club has been a success, with about 225 students participating. "I am very proud of where we are on this," he said. The club was formed a few months ago in response to widespread opposition to a district drug testing program.

Three random drug testing sessions have been conducted, with only parents knowing the results. Ciccantelli described the program as a way to educate teens on how to make good decisions.

"We’ve had several other districts call us to find out information about this program," he said, adding it eventually could be extended to Harmon students.

To close the work session, Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction Mike Roberto gave an overview on a new report card process called SitRep. About 75 students in grades 3 to 5 are participating in the pilot program.

"The system focuses on the process of learning rather than just an emphasis on letter grades," he said. It enables teachers to periodically keep parents informed about their child’s progress.

Ciccantelli reported Cedar Fair has donated some concrete barriers from the former Geauga Lake Park to block access to certain sensitive areas on the district’s grounds.

Reporter Ken Lahmers can be reached at 330-541-9400 Ext. 4189 or klahmers@recordpub.com.