JACKSON-MILTON Replace, repair high school, report suggests

The board may ask voters to pay for construction of a new high school.
NORTH JACKSON -- The walls of Jackson-Milton High School have received a failing grade from a Youngstown engineering company.
Seidler Engineering Inc. issued a report Thursday concluding that the school's exterior walls must be either repaired or replaced. Last week, school officials discovered that some of the bricks in the walls look as if they're being pushed out from the inside.
The report states the damage is caused by water that has collected in the walls above the school's second-story windows. The water, which leaked from the school's roof, caused steel beams above the windows to rust and expand.
Jackson-Milton Superintendent Warne Palmer said some of the steel beams have swelled to more than twice their original size and are pushing the bricks out.
Board's likely vote: Palmer said the board of education most likely will vote to repair the walls by replacing the steel beams with treated wood. He also said the brick above the second-story windows would be replaced as part of the repairs.
The school board is expected to discuss the walls at 6:30 p.m. Thursday in the elementary school's library.
Palmer said he felt fortunate that the report did not recommend replacing the school's roof or condemning second-story classrooms.
"We've at least escaped that," he said.
The repairs should be completed by the first day of school in September, Palmer said. He added that Seidler Engineering is expected to have cost estimates for the repairs next week.
Cost concerns: School officials are worried that the cost of repairs may add to the financial woes of the district, which has been in fiscal emergency for the past three years. Palmer was planning to call the state auditor to discuss ending the fiscal emergency until he learned about the bricks.
Representatives from the state education department are expected to discuss the fiscal emergency with school officials after Thursday's meeting.
"The ultimate goal from [the state's] perspective is to get us out of fiscal emergency," Palmer said. "I think they're ready to have us removed."
Palmer said if school officials find they are eligible for additional state funds because of the fiscal emergency, they may ask to have the emergency extended. The additional state funds could help to pay for the repairs, he said.
The school has an annual general fund budget of $8 million. About $1 million of that comes from a 9.9-mill emergency levy that took effect in 1998. The levy is set to expire at the end of 2002.
Considering bond issue: Palmer said the school board may place a bond issue on the ballot next May to help pay for the construction of a new high school. The high school, which was constructed in 1913, is in need of repairs, Palmer said.
"I think we may have a couple of community meetings and say, 'What do we want to do?'" he said. "The community has to make a choice, whether they want to fix it up or build a new building."
Money spent on the construction of a new school would help the school board meet its responsibilities under the state's Expedited Local Partnership program. The program calls for the state to pay for 28 percent of the cost of bringing the Jackson-Milton school buildings up to state standards. The remaining 72 percent of the cost would come from local sources.
As part of the program, a team of contractors hired by the Ohio School Facilities Commission toured the schools in March. The contractors will lay out their recommendations for the schools in a master plan for the district.
The board is expected to meet with the contractors in August to discuss the master plan. Palmer said the contractors have told him that the master plan will call for the district to abandon the high school.

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