Conceptual site plans for the two proposed elementary schools in the Buckeye Valley Local School District were made public this week.
Voters in the district will consider a bond issue Nov. 3 that would finance the new schools.
Organizers of the “Excellence for Buckeye Valley” campaign received the plans from OHM Advisors, the architectural firm in charge of designing the new East and West elementary buildings.
The schools will be located in Ashley, on the existing East Elementary site, and at a 31.5-acre site at Bellepoint in Concord Township just west of State Route 257. The district has approved an option to purchase the Bellepoint land for about $465,000, pending passage of the $31.3 million bond issue.
Joe Veneman, spokesman for the Excellence for Buckeye Valley campaign, said both facilities will include air conditioning and more reliable heating, plumbing and electrical systems; dry roofs; upgraded fire, intruder protection and weather protection; and safer areas for parents and bus drivers to drop off and pick up children. The increased efficiency, according to Veneman, will save the district about $88,000 annually in operating costs.
The new East Elementary would cover 57,261 square feet and house 425 students. An existing classroom building will be renovated and the new portion will be built onto the front of that structure.
West Elementary would be a 72,719 square-foot structure and house 625 students. The size of each building will allow the district to send fifth-grade students back to the elementaries. They currently attend class at the middle school.
“(The Bellepoint) location is almost equidistant between the two population centers in the southern end of the district, which are Concord Township, Scioto Reserve area, and Ostrander,” Veneman said. “It’s about two and a half times the size of any of our other elementary properties right now. So it provides plenty of room for future growth, especially since that’s where the growth is anticipated over the next decade or so.”
Veneman said that the community seems to be much more unified in favor of the bond issue than it was during the previous levy campaign in 2012. He said the major difference between the current campaign and past efforts is that the organizing committee reached out to district residents for their input on a plan before offering a final proposal to the board of education.
“We had a small group of stakeholders get together and run a process outside of the establishment, to allow community input ahead of the issue,” Veneman said. “We spent probably seven or eight months trying to figure out what the community’s priorities were, what our obligations were as a school district.”
Veneman said the process included holding multiple public forums to let community members voice their ideas and concerns, then taking that information back to school district officials. The committee also received input from the district officials, including teachers, regarding its needs before meeting with community members one final time to present a plan for two elementary schools. Support for the final plan was overwhelming, he said.
“We were very happy to get 79 percent, all backing one plan,” Veneman said. Eighty-three of the 105 people who attended the final forum voted in favor of the plan that district residents will vote on Nov. 3. “Now we are seeing yard signs in support of the issue all over the district. It’s really exciting.”
One important aspect of the planning process, Veneman noted, was a two-day “visioning symposium” that was held in September. District teachers and administrators met with the architect to discuss what educators would need in each facility to better meet the needs of students.
“They tried to envision what Buckeye Valley elementary education should and could be,” he said. “It didn’t take them long to figure out that how they would like to engage their students isn’t really met by what the (existing) facilities allow functionally.”
Delaware County Auditor George Kaitsa said the $31.3 million bond issue, if approved, would cost an additional $108.50 in property taxes annually on a property valued at $100,000. However, the net tax increase would actually be $47.18 each year per $100,000 valuation due to the expiration of another bond issue in December. That bond issue, approved by voters in 1995, paid for the construction of Buckeye Valley Middle School.
Voters rejected a different bond issue for elementary facilities last year.