Written by Timothy Hornbeck
During March the temperature gets warmer, the snow slowly melts and life that has been dormant throughout the winter begins to re-emerge. Likewise, so do the dump trucks, excavators and skid steer loaders. It was springtime in Ohio, the start of many projects to abate and demolish historic/neighborhood schools that have been abandoned for new educational facilities.
Just this year, I calculate fifteen schools built between 1909 and 1960 have been lost with more scheduled for demolition this summer and fall. Many of these buildings were originally built as neighborhood anchors and educational legacies for future generations, but they are rapidly being replaced by campus-style facilities located on the outer edges of many communities. These include schools like Hudson Elementary School (1915) in Summit County, which was adorned with two large sandstone plaques displaying poetic quotes; West Unity High School (1921) in Williams County with its three-story blend of red brick and sandstone accents; or even last fall's loss of Champion Avenue Middle School (1909), originally Columbus's first all African-American de facto segregated school.
Ohio has reached the halfway point of its public education facilities construction program. Created in 1997, the Ohio School Facilities Commission (OSFC) oversees this program. The OSFC approves the individual facility project plans, provides management oversight and disperses the state's portion of funding based on a local district's property wealth. Since 1997, more than $8 billion has been allocated to school facilities. Overall this program is truly beneficial to Ohio's educational system, but there are some concerns.
The OSFC utilizes a "two-thirds guideline" to gauge the cost of renovation against new construction. If the cost to renovate an existing school exceeds two-thirds the cost to build an equally sized new facility, then the OSFC recommends that the existing school be replaced. Initially this appears to help with the decision to renovate or replace, but if you don't take a closer look, an opportunity for savings could be missed.
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