JACKSON-MILTON Board plans to seek bond to build new school

The new building would replace the elementary and high schools.
NORTH JACKSON -- Jackson-Milton school board is getting ready to give voters an opportunity to decide if all 970 district pupils should be educated in one school.
That opportunity would come when residents head to the polls in May to cast ballots on a 10.2-mill, 27-year bond issue. The bond issue would allow the board to borrow $21.5 million for the construction of a school that would replace the district's elementary and high schools, both on Mahoning Avenue.
Superintendent Buck Palmer said the board is slated to pass a resolution tonight stating that the bond issue should appear on the ballot in May. The board is expected to pass a second resolution in February officially putting the issue on the ballot, he said.
An issue of space: Palmer said he believes the new school would provide pupils in the elementary school the opportunity for better education by giving them more space to learn. He noted that 540 pupils are educated in the elementary school, which has a capacity of 410.
"People are just too close to each other," Palmer said. "We just don't have adequate space."
Palmer added that temporary walls have been erected in the elementary school classrooms to create additional space for learning. As a result, he said some pupils have to go through two classrooms before they can get to the hall.
The elementary school, built in the early 1970s, is used by pupils in kindergarten through 6th grade.
Taking part in program: By approving the bond issue, voters also would allow the school district to participate in the state's Expedited Local Partnership Program. The program calls for the state to pay 31 percent of the cost of bringing the Jackson-Milton school buildings up to code. The remaining 72 percent would come from the bond issue.
State officials toured the Jackson-Milton district last year and determined that the best way to bring the school buildings up to code was to construct a new school, Palmer said.
Money for the new school would not be available from the state until at least 2008. Palmer said that the district would use the money it receives from the state to pay off the bond issue.
No site has been selected for the new school, although Palmer said the board was looking at possible locations. He added that the board has yet to authorize the creation of plans.
Splitting by grades: Palmer also stressed that pupils in the new school would be divided by grade. Pupils in kindergarten through 4th grade would have their own classrooms, he said, as well as pupils in grades 5-8 and 9-12.
The split would give pupils in grade 5-8 an easier transition into high school life, Palmer said.
Palmer also said construction of a new school will help ensure that district residents don't pay millions of dollars to maintain the high school, built in 1913. The school needs a "major overhaul," he said, as all of the school's exterior walls and the roof need to be replaced.
"It's on its last legs," Palmer said of the school. "You'd be talking about millions of dollars just to bring it up to code."

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