STOW — While students and their families enjoyed summer break away from school, the administration of the Stow-Munroe Falls Schools was evaluating the district's nine school buildings in an initial step to creating a new master facilities plan.
The results of that summer evaluation were presented during the school board's Oct. 7 workshop by representatives from Hammond Construction in Canton and Then Design Architecture in Willoughby giving the presentation.
This assessment was completed to evaluate the school district's buildings in terms of safety and their ability to support student learning in today's world, said Robert Gress, the district's director of operations.
"We're not going in with any preconceived notions about what we're doing with any of the buildings," Gress said. "But with buildings that range from 80 years to over 30, it's important that we take a look at what is it costing residents to patch and repair our aging schools, especially if the state of Ohio is willing to pay for some of the cost."
The evaluation was done for free through the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission, Gress added.
Cheryl Fisher from Then Design Architecture commended the district's maintenance staff for its efforts with the school buildings.
"Your district's maintenance staff has done an excellent job making these buildings safe for the students," Fisher said. "But everything has a life cycle. Given the age of your school buildings, many have exceeded that."
Fisher said the last time the district's buildings were evaluated was in 2006, about 13 years ago. Many things have changed since then.
Jeff Tuckerman of Hammond Construction explained one of the things the evaluation covered was the cost of renovating the school buildings versus replacing them. The rule of thumb, as outlined by the OFCC, is that if the cost to renovate is two-thirds or greater than the cost to rebuild, or 66.6 percent, the district should consider rebuilding.
The cost of repairing versus replacing the schools, according to a presentation from TDA and Hammond:
• Stow-Munroe Falls High School, built in 1986: just under $38.7 million to repair, or 55 percent of the cost of replacement, which is calculated at $70 million;
• Kimpton Middle School, built in 1970: about $19.2 million to repair, or 69 percent of the cost of replacement, which is calculated at about $28 million;
• Lakeview Intermediate, built in 1952: about $19.4 million to repair, or 79 percent of the cost of replacement, which is about $24.5 million;
• Woodland Elementary, built in 1956: just under $7.3 million to repair, or 80 percent of the cost of replacement, which is estimated at about $9.1 million;
• Riverview Elementary, built in 1956: just under $7.5 million to repair, or 82 percent of the cost of replacing, which is estimated at $9.1 million.
• Indian Trail Elementary, built in 1969: about $9.1 to repair, or about 78 percent of the cost of replacement, which is estimated at just under $11.8 million;
• Highland Elementary, built in 1939: nearly $8.5 million, or 87 percent of the cost of rebuilding, which is estimated at $9.7 million;
• Fishcreek Elementary, built in 1961: about $7.2 million to repair, or 77 percent of the cost of rebuilding, which is estimated at $9.4 million.
• Echo Hills Elementary, built in 1968: just under $9.4 million to repair, or 82 percent of the cost of rebuilding, which is estimated at $11.4 million.
Tuckerman said that the decision whether to repair or replace the buildings would rest with the district and with the community.
Fisher said each building was evaluated on 23 separate criteria, and what it would cost to fix each item to the level of having a new school. Items evaluated included the school's heating system, roofing, utilities, structure, finishes, accessibility, loose furnishings, technology and hazardous materials such as asbestos. The entire document is "a couple thousand pages," Fisher added.
Tuckerman said their evaluations included talking with the people who worked in the schools.
"The people who operate these buildings know better than anyone what the issues are," he said.
Common problems seen during the district-wide evaluation included leaks in the roofs, utilities issues, window issues and drainage problems. Highland Elementary especially has problems with drainage, Fisher said.
"This is the first time we've seen a river running through the basement," Fisher said. "That's a sign of a serious issue with this building."
The report also noted areas where the school had made repairs and improvements since the 2006 study, and that was factored in, Fisher said. Many schools have seen window replacements, utility upgrades and other improvements in the past several years.
The next steps, Fisher said, will include site studies, including studies on educational adequacy. By next year, the goal will be to form a facilities committee, which will include "a cross-section of your community" to go over the information and start drafting a master plan for the district's school buildings.
Once the Master Facilities Plan is complete, the school board will then decide the next course of action, Gress said.
Gress said the OFCC works with Ohio's districts to identify needs and, when a district becomes eligible, will help with financing any building projects. He added that the district is eligible for the state to cover up to about 24 percent of the cost.
"We want to do what is right for both our students and the taxpayers," said Superintendent Tom Bratten. He added that Gress will lead the discussions on the Master Facilities Plan.
Reporter April Helms can be reached at 330-541-9423, firstname.lastname@example.org, or @AprilKHelms_RPC