Ten questions answered about Cuyahoga Falls school building project

Phil Keren
Kent Weeklies
Bolich Middle School is located at 2630 13th St. in Cuyahoga Falls. The school district is planning to construct a building for grades 6-12 on the site where Bolich and the former Newberry Elementary School stand.

CUYAHOGA FALLS — The school district recently received good news regarding funding for its new grades 6-12 building project.

The Ohio Facilities Construction Commission (OFCC) has given its approval for nearly $32.8 million in state funding to help pay for the construction of a 370,000-square-foot building for middle and high school students. The total cost of the building construction is $88.5 million.

The building will be constructed on the campus of Bolich Middle School and the former Newberry Elementary School. The campus boundaries are Portage Trail, 13th Street, Silver Lake Avenue and Norma Street. The state money also will help pay for the abatement and demolition of Bolich, estimated to cost $862,513, and Newberry, which is expected to cost $381,616. 

Here are 10 questions and answers on the project.

1. Does the OFCC's approval mean the district is definitely going to receive the state money?

No. There is one more official step. The state's Controlling Board still needs to give final approval to releasing the $32.8 million in state funds May 24. If that occurs, Cuyahoga Falls Superintendent Dr. Todd Nichols said the district can establish contracts can with Then Design Architecture (TDA), and Hammond Construction, the project's construction manager.

2. How is the rest of the building project being funded?

In November 2019, voters approved a 9.83-mill tax levy that included a 5.33-mill, 36-year bond issue that will generate about $80.6 million.

Of that amount, the district will use $55.8 million to help pay for constructing the new 6-12 building and abating and tearing down Bolich and Newberry.

This photo shows the hill between Bolich Middle School and the former Newberry Elementary School in Cuyahoga Falls. The Cuyahoga Falls City School District is planning to construct a 370,000 square foot building for grades 6-12 in this area. [Karen Schiely/Beacon Journal]

3. What is the remaining $24.8 million from the bond issue being used for?

These funds will be used to pay for items such as constructing a 1,400-seat performing arts center, a 200-seat Black Box Theater, and a 5,000-seat stadium. The state money is not being used for these features.

4. Have there been any community meetings to learn more about the project?

Yes. The district hosted an in-person public meeting regarding the project on April 15 in the Cuyahoga Falls High School auditorium. Community members had a chance to meet with and ask questions of TDA and Hammond representatives.

Nichols said about 80-90 people attended the meeting in-person and another 20-30 participated virtually. He added the meeting went "very well."

"We were able to address all of the questions posed in person and online," Nichols said. "While we would have loved more participation, we were very happy with the kickoff."

5. Is a recording of the April 15 community meeting available?

Yes, a video, photos and information can be viewed at https://bit.ly/3vgs1GH or by visiting cfalls.org and clicking on the "Building Community" tab on the main page.

6. Have there been any other meetings about the project?

Yes. The Cuyahoga Falls Board of Education had an educational visioning meeting scheduled for April 29 at the Summit County Educational Service Center. The board planned to discuss how education will be delivered in the new 6-12 building.

"It is part of the design process," Nichols said. "We dream of what we want education to look like and design a building in which to deliver such education."

The April 29 meeting was not livestreamed or recorded, but Nichols said, "We will have a follow-up community engagement piece at a later date."

7. Will there be another meeting where the public can participate?

Yes. The district will have a Visual Preference Community event on May 13. Community members are encouraged to take a photo of their favorite piece of architecture in Cuyahoga Falls and write about why they believe it's representative of the community. Photos and written pieces should be submitted to John Wasylko, Community Relations, at Cuyahoga Falls City School District at cf_wasylkoj@cftigers.org.

8. Are the Bolich and Newberry buildings still being used?

Bolich still is being used as a middle school, while Newberry closed in 2005 as a result of budget cuts. The Newberry building was leased for 12 years by Summit Christian School until the school moved to a building in the Woodridge school district in 2017. The Summit County Educational Service Center's Summit Preschool is currently operating inside the former Newberry building until the end of the school year.

9. When will the Bolich and Newberry buildings be abated and demolished?

According to Nichols, the abatement and demolition of Bolich has not been scheduled yet. The abatement and demolition of Newberry is scheduled for this fall.

10. When is groundbreaking expected on the new 6-12 building?

Nichols said district officials are looking to officially break ground in the fall of 2022 and, "if all goes well," finish the building in fall of 2025.

Reporter Phil Keren can be reached at pkeren@thebeaconjournal.com, or on Twitter at @keren_phil.