BETHEL TWP. — Bethel school board president Jacob King said the district is in the “difficult position” of finding instructional space for its growing student population.
The district is considering several options for adding classroom space, including the renovation of existing spaces, a steel structure, or modular units. These options would provide space while the district considers long-term solutions, like the construction of new facilities, and develops a facilities master plan. The board noted that the district is about five or six years down the state’s schedule for construction funding.
At a previous meeting, Superintendent Ginny Potter said that the district has been adding one or two classrooms a year by renovating old spaces. She estimated that the district will need six to eight new classrooms in the next four years.
A steel building could house between four to six more classrooms and would cost about $1.5 million. In the future, it could be reconfigured to be used as a gym or cafeteria space.
The district could also renovate and split the choir room and move the choir classes into the auditorium. That option would cost the district around $350,000.
The district is also considering modular classroom units, which would cost between $650,000 to $875,000, plus $100,000 to uninstall them later.
For any of the three options to be ready for the next school year, the board will have to make a decision in January, Potter said.
Treasurer Brennon Hattery recommended the renovation option because it’s the least costly and it gives the district a year to “manage the influx of growth” and to see how the next state budget will affect the district.
“The state budget is up next year. We are currently a capped district. We lose the third most per pupil in the State of Ohio,” he said. That works out to $3.8 million lost every year, he added.
Hattery said there is a coalition working to have the cap removed and if the new governor decides to put more money in education, “We could get more money.” That would allow the district to consider more options, he said.
Board member Julie Reese argued that renovating the choir room only buys the district one more classroom because the choir classes could already be moved to the auditorium.
“It’s a lot of money to spend on one classroom,” she said.
Other board members and members of the district’s facilities committee pointed out that, if the district does choose to work with the state on new construction in the future, the district could have to demolish existing structures.
Potter said the renovation would buy the district more time to work on a master plan. She also noted that the location of a steel building, if the board chooses to pursue that option, could affect future construction.
“Where you put that steel structure will also affect if you make any connections to the new part of the building,” she said.
The facilities committee that met before the regular board meeting discussed the possibility of constructing new facilities, including the construction of a new, separate elementary school or high school on another site.
Reese said that the district will have to consider discontinuing the use of the 1917 building.
“We’re having this meeting in a hundred-year-old school. Eventually we have to assume that we’re not going to use this school for classroom space because it will become too expensive to maintain. Don’t know when that is yet, but it’s something to keep on the table,” Reese said.
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