Superintendent Column - Franklin City Schools
Greetings from Franklin City Schools!
In an earlier message, I mentioned that our district has a bond issue on the ballot this fall. We have a fantastic opportunity to upgrade our buildings with the state of Ohio paying 57% of the cost. Our plan is to build a new high school, totally renovate the current high school into a 6-8 middle school, and build three new elementary schools.
The Board of Education voted last year to enter into the ELPP program with the state of Ohio; this means the district will pay the local share of the construction project first, and the state will pay its share later. FCS has never been offered such a favorable cost split; an opportunity to build a new high school a decade ago had the state paying only 35% of the project.
We want voters to be aware that if the bond issue to fund the local share fails, we won’t receive the state money. If we don't take advantage of this opportunity, our agreement with the state would basically go dormant, and it would be many years before FCS would be offered another chance to participate in this program.
Besides the favorable cost split we've been offered, several factors make now an ideal time to undertake this project. First, the district’s growing student population is creating the need for more space; our buildings house more students than they were constructed to hold. In some cases, we’re using the buildings’ stages as classrooms. Second, our money will go farther. Interest rates are low and construction costs are down 17% from 2019; they’re expected to go down more this year. Bottom line: taxpayers will get more for their money.
Our buildings are overcrowded and, frankly, they're old: their average age is 64, and aging buildings bring a myriad of maintenance headaches and issues. For example, the district is facing $3.5M in roof repairs: Schenck: $611,300; FJHS: $544,200; FHS Area D: $70,500; Pennyroyal: $206,400; Hampton Bennett Main kindergarten hall, office, and gym: $213,700; Anthony Wayne (everywhere but the gym): $406,400; FHS auditorium: $43,000; Hunter: $633,600; and Gerke: $764,400.
Another constant headache is the HVAC system at the 99-year-old junior high: It’s nearly impossible to get parts for the building’s boiler, and as Carlisle was preparing to demolish their old Carlisle Middle School (a building of similar age to our FJHS), they invited our maintenance crews to strip their boiler of any and all usable parts. Just this week we learned that we're facing a $50,000 bill to replace the 64-year-old control units on boilers just to keep them running this winter. This system is incredibly inefficient and makes room temperatures hard to control. That's why even on the coldest days you'll see third-floor classrooms with windows open.
New buildings will be much more energy efficient. We hope that those savings, combined with reducing eight classroom buildings to five, will save operating expenses and potentially delay the need for future operating levies.
Because we know residents are anxious to know what new facilities would look like, our architect created a conceptual drawing showing how a new high school could be sited on the current junior high and Hampton Bennett lots. Student parking would be directly across from Community Park's west entry, giving the two properties the feel of being one large campus and enhancing Franklin's St. Rt. 123 entrance. This is only an example of what the final campus COULD look like with the high school on 6th St. Once the bond issue passes, the design phase will begin. Just as a community group helped determine the building configuration that the community would support, residents will also have input into how the buildings will look.
We know students, families, and other voters have many questions such as where the buildings will be, how much this will cost, and the timeframe. The district has a website, buildingfranklinsfuture.com, dedicated to the construction project and it will be updated as the project proceeds.
As always, if you have questions or concerns about Franklin City Schools, don’t hesitate to contact me at (937) 746-1699 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Michael D. Sander, Ed.D, Superintendent, Franklin City Schools