Nordonia schools to look at pre-bond architects

April Helms
Kent Weeklies
The administration with the Nordonia Hills City Schools plans to start investigating potential pre-bond architects to assist the district in forming a facilities plan.

NORTHFIELD CENTER – The administration with the Nordonia Hills City Schools plans to start asking around about potential pre-bond architects to assist the district in forming a facilities plan.

Superintendent Joe Clark told the school board that researching prospective pre-bond architects would help the district find experts in developing a plan for the district’s school buildings. Clark said he planned to get recommendations from the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission and from neighboring school districts such as Tallmadge and Hudson, who recently went through or are undergoing school construction and renovation projects. From there, the district can ask architectural firms to submit proposals; the school board would select a few firms to interview and possibly vote on hiring one of them.

Clark said that Bill Prenosil from the OFCC had recommended the district hire a pre-bond architect to help the district look at its facilities, student enrollment projections and facilitating community outreach and forums. Prenosil told the school board in a meeting last month that the cost to contract a pre-bond architect is roughly $40,000, although the scale can vary depending on several factors.

The school board informally agreed to have Clark start inquiring about possible pre-bond architects.

Chad Lahrmer, vice president of the school board, said the district would be smart to get the initial process started.

“I see no reason to kick the can down the road,” Lahrmer said. “So many of our buildings are just in bad shape.”

Matt Gaugler, business director for the district, said the district needed to address the issue of its aging facilities.

“Our buildings are falling apart and are not ready for COVID,” he said. “We had to spend a lot of money to retrofit our buildings for COVID. They were built in a war era, a bomb shelter era. Kids will always need to go to school, they will always need good buildings. Before COVID, we were getting feedback about when we will be talking facilities. The Bandaids are not going to last forever.”

Board President Tammy Strong said she agreed that “we need new buildings,” but cautioned that the district’s residents may not be in favor right now of a possible bond issue because of the shaky economy due to the pandemic.

Board member LizMcKinley agreed.

“2020 has been a nightmare in so many ways,” McKinley said. “We are rolling into 2021, we are now seeing vaccinations. I don’t think we should wait a year but let’s finish out the school year. I would really like to see how to swing. We had to spend a lot on COVID. The members of the board have a lot of unique skills, but none of us are architects. We do need to get architect, but I want to wait for things to settle just a little bit.”

Clark said the process of getting recommendations and asking for proposals would take some time. If the board wanted to hire someone it would probably be in the spring.

Board member William Busse said the pre-bond architects would “have to go through the buildings and go over the district’s plan.”

“We wouldn’t have anything until summer,” Busse said. “By that time, we will have a better idea on the economy.”

Clark said the district would want to get the community involved in two ways. One, would be to have a committee involving numerous residents to come up with a plan for the district, whether to rebuild, renovate, consolidate and other issues, including the timing of the facilities plan.

“If community is interested and involved, and the determination is we build four new buildings,” Clark said. “But due to finances, we do one building first, and do it in phases.”

However, having a pre-bond architect in place first is critical before involving the community and hosting public forums, Clark said.

“If we try to hold a forum now, there may be questions from community that we don’t know the answers to,” Clark said.

Reporter April Helms can be reached at ahelms@thebeaconjournal.com