Thursday, May 19, 2011

Additional Information and Thoughts Regarding the Proposed New School Plan

Now that the information regarding the proposed new building plan for Greenville City Schools has been soaking in for the last day or so, I have read through many comments and questions and thought that it would be a good idea to go ahead and address many of them up front. Hopefully this can shed some light on the thought process behind how this plan was decided upon and how the facilities committee came to the conclusion that this is the best option we have available right now.

As a member of this committee I listened and participated in many conversations and fact gathering activities throughout this process. If I fail to answer one of your questions, leave it in the comments below, and I'll do my best to answer it or find an answer for you. Click on "continue reading" below to see the full article, then leave your question or comment below.

Alternative Options:

Of course building a K-8 and renovating the high school was not the only option considered by the committee. At the first meeting back in February, the architects actually presented a few additional options that were more or less shot down for logistical or cost reasons.

One of the first options detailed was to build a new K-12 school. This would mean a project with an estimated total budget of $125.3 million, with Greenville property owners paying $99 million of that. The reason we would have to foot so much of the bill is because the OSFC (the state program that provides funding) will pay no more than $26.3 million regardless of which option we choose. This is because $26.3 million is the amount they would co fund to replace Woodland, East, South and the Junior High. Since the condition of the high school does not warrant a replacement, they will not provide funds to replace it. Therefore, if we as a community decided to replace the high school, we would need to foot the bill for that part of the project. Any plan that replaces the high school will therefore be incredibly cost prohibitive, especially in our current economy. It is also important to note that replacing the high school also means replacing the career tech buildings, which also adds considerably to the cost.

Additionally, there is not enough space on the Ohio Street property to build a K-12, so we would also need to find and procure a piece of land to build on. We all can agree that this would not be a popular choice.

Another option that was discussed was the possibility of re purposing the high school to house lower grades and building a new high school on the Ohio Street property. The major hurdle with this option is that OSFC (the state program) would require an extensive remodel/renovation of the current high school before moving different grades in. This is an example of being a little held back by the guidelines of the state’s program. While the final proposal includes some money to renovate the current high school, the entire building would be forced to be updated to current standards before moving different grades in than what attend there currently. We can probably debate the merits of this rule, but it would not change the fact that it exists and makes this project cost prohibitive as well. Additionally, the current high school could only hold either K-4 or 5-8, but not K-8. This means in addition to constructing a new high school, we would also need to build an additional building or leave either K-4 or 5-8 in old buildings. The additional building pushes the total project cost through the roof, and leaving a portion of the old buildings in service seems like a waste of effort when we have an option that is more reasonably priced and can affect and improve the conditions for all grades.

Other than building a K-8, the other very strongly considered option was building two new buildings on the Ohio Street property, a K-4 and a 5-8, as well as the same renovation on the high school as is in the currently proposed plan. This option has many of the same benefits of the K-8: it addresses all grades and removes all of the older buildings from service (other than the high school) without being incredibly cost prohibitive. The architects estimated this plan to be slightly more expensive than a K-8, mainly due to doubling HVAC systems, auditoriums, cafeterias/kitchens, etc that could be shared in a consolidated building. Many committee members felt this option was solid, but ultimately it was agreed upon that a K-8 is a better option. Here’s why:

In the K-8, we achieve the goals of removing the older buildings from service. We also have enough room on Ohio Street to build there, therefore not impacting the current systems during construction and not requiring an additional land purchase. It is also the most reasonably priced option that was considered.

Further, after completion, the K-8 will achieve more efficiency for the district. Operating expenses like utilities will be lower due to being able to share services and systems like heating and cooling, etc. We can also achieve space efficiencies by being able to share spaces for all grades K-8, such as art, cafeterias, auditoriums, special education services, etc. This also would lead to reducing headcount to save the district money. While for obvious reasons no specifics can be named, a K-8 would lend itself to consolidating positions to save money on staff. Those staff members will also be able to add more value by being available to a wider base of students, where today they would have to travel all over town to do so.

There were concerns raised about the age difference between kids occupying the same space. This issue is addressed by designing the layout in such a way that the two groups do not intermix. This type of design was observed at Parkway when the group visited there. The older kids do not typically see the younger kids due to the way admin has scheduled the day and the layout of the facility. Also, things like cafeterias being shared was a concern. No one wants some kids to have to eat as early as 10:30 to accommodate getting everyone in and out of the cafeteria. This is addressed by building two separate cafeterias with two separate lunch lines, but being served out of one shared kitchen (think of a kitchen with a window on opposite sides serving food). Again, it can be designed so that while different age groups are eating at the same time, they are not intermixed.

Tons of great discussion was had on each of these options, but at the end of the day, a K-8 was simply the obvious answer to many of us. It’s the most affordable, and it is the most efficient, especially in the world of post construction operating costs. It gives the admin and the board the ability to save even more by consolidating and broadening services where today they may be spread out due to logistics.

Some other items to consider (in an effort to answer some other questions before they are asked):

• It had been suggested to build on the Woodland Heights property. This property is not big enough per OSFC guidelines to build a new building on. Further, we would need to find something to do with the students attending the school while the construction is going on (while we may be able to squeeze some option of a building there, it definitely could not be done while the existing building is there).

• It had been suggested to build something on the land surrounding the existing high school. This is difficult for the same reasons as above. It is also important to note that the Stadium and ball fields are owned by the city, and not the school district, which means land would need to be procured.

If you have questions that aren’t addressed (or maybe even raised) by the items above, please leave them in the comments below. The only way the school can move forward is if we as a community take ownership of the issues we face regarding our buildings and have an open, honest discussion about what we do with them.


  1. I hope they can get the levy passed. Now that they have a plan, it's time to make the sales pitch. For me, I expect to see some savings in the long run. For those that are in the know, what are the current levies for running the school? What is needed after constructing the new building? Hopefully there is a significant difference that could be a selling point to the public.

  2. There will be always be those that will say nay to this issue to matter what you present to them (and I was once one of those people-believe me, I was), but I now think that this is worth a yes vote.
    I opened my train of thought - and now I am willing to open my bank account a little bit. I don't live in a $100,000 house, so the new tax wouldn't completely kill me-but I am willing to make some changes if it passes. I hope that it does go through because in the very end, it will come to be a good thing.

  3. The architects have told us that similar buildings they have just built are operating at about 60 to 70 cents a square foot. The GCSD tells us that it costs about $1.50 Per Sq Ft now to operate the existng buildings so the operating issue would be about one half of what it is now. The plan is to use geothermal for heating, low energy lighting and other things that will keep the operating costs down. The committee actually traveled to other schools in other districts and have seen it working there.

  4. Thanks for your great work Badge.
    I believe the operating costs are not quite that low, more like between 70 - 80cents. I'm splitting hairs, I know, but I want to be as honest and up front as possible. Still a big savings. It still seems like a big savings. Certainly more efficient.

  5. So how many square feet are we talking about? what is the potential savings?

  6. Just look again at what you wrote about lack of acreage for the building on at the high school and also the Woodland Heights schools. You said that the site on Ohio street is not large enough to accommodate a k-12 school. That should tell you that that is not the place to start setting up a new facillity.
    The high school, even if it was renovated would still fall into the need of replacement in another 20 or so years.
    The site to build on needs to be large enough to put the whole campus on when the need and funds come available. This would enclude sports fields and tracks, building and grounds maintenance and bus bus parking.
    As you can picture this Ohio street facility in nowhere nearly large enough.
    If you can't do it right, don't even think about doing it.

  7. Bob, therein lies the beauty of imminent domain. I agree the area should be big enough for the high school, too. I would hope that the board would try to acquire the land to the north if this levy passes for the k-8 building.

  8. With all due respect, Eminent Domain should be spelled correctly.

    And for anyone wanting more information regarding Eminent Domain in Ohio...

  9. Though I suppose my apologies are noted.
    I have only seen it spelled Eminent, and I have worked within the Real Estate industry where it is used.
    But according to Google it can be spelled Imminent also.

  10. Eminent domain has no business being used in this instance, if they can't get the levy passed to pay for it, they have no business taking it from someone.

    I hope it fails, no reason only property owners should be forced to pay for this, go hit up the baby factories in those low income slum apartments on Russ road first.


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