By Amanda C. Davis
Present plans call for the football stadium to remain where it is
NORTH LIMA — It was an emotional day for Nicole Rothbauer as she watched part of her past being dug up.
But the 1987 South Range High School alumna said she is keeping an eye on the future and that Saturday’s groundbreaking for a new kindergarten-through-12th-grade school represented a new chapter for the district.
School board president John Fromel told a crowd of more than 100 that memories and legacies of the past will follow when the district moves onto a centralized campus in fall 2010.
“Today we take another big step,” Fromel told the crowd. He addressed pupils who attended, saying the new school will best prepare them for challenges they’ll face in the future.
Pupils, administrators and the school board donned hard hats as they ceremoniously moved dirt during the event
The 191,000-square-foot building will sit on 60 acres along state Route 46 and Green Beaver Road in Beaver Township. The district, which encompasses 50 square miles, serves most of Green and Beaver townships.
“Personally, this is like Christmas Eve for me,” Superintendent Dennis Dunham said. He told students that having the district under one roof was proof that dreams do come true.
The two-story building will have three separate wings: One for the elementary school, serving kindergarten through fourth grade; the middle school, serving grades 5-8; and the high school. Each wing will have its own entrance, as well as office space for nurses, principals and secretaries.
Each wing will have a gymnasium, but one cafeteria and library will be shared. The food court-style cafeteria can accommodate 450 people but will be partitioned to separate the grade levels. The library will also have separate spaces for grade levels. An 800-seat auditorium will serve the entire student population.
Dunham said the new site will include baseball, softball, soccer and football practice fields, but present plans are to keep the stadium at the current high school due to wetland issues at the new site.
Treasurer Jim Phillips said the Ohio School Facilities Commission doesn’t fund athletic facilities, bus garages or administration offices, so for now, the offices will remain next to the high school and bus garages will stay on the middle school site in Green Township.
The site for the new school is where the former Green Beaver Baseball Complex stood. Rothbauer, who is on the South Range Youth Athletic Committee, said the organization is “trying desperately to find land” to relocate the complex.
There are a few prospects, but Rothbauer said the hard part is raising money. Registration for spring and summer sports is in January. She said she’s not sure where teams will practice but noted other local communities have offered their facilities until new land is secured.
Phillips said the district is definitely high on the “move-to” list in Mahoning County. When he came to the district in 1991, he said student enrollment was at 1,114. Dunham said current enrollment is 1,350. The superintendent said 100 new students enrolled since 1996 and the OSFC has projected another 100 will be added over the next 10 years.
Phillips said he and Dunham believe the state’s 10-year projection will be surpassed unless there’s a severe recession in this country.
“We could easily add on if we need to” Phillips said, explaining each wing has room for expansion to accommodate any future enrollment spikes.
Real estate agent Dee Brintzenhofe, of Coldwell Banker First Place Real Estate, said earlier this week she believes many home buyers have moved into the district because of its status as one of the best in Ohio.
South Range has received an excellent rating every year since the state education department implemented its annual report card 10 years ago.
“The school district has had such a wonderful reputation for so many years,” she said.
Brintzenhofe explained she believes that reputation brought developers to the area in the last several years and that many people look for good schools with a small-community feel.
Much of the district relies on wells and septic systems, Brintzenhofe said, adding she thinks this has held back further development because many people want water and sewer service.
Hammond Construction is overseeing the project and has worked on early design development with Balog, Steins, Hendricks and Manchester Architects of Youngstown.
In May 2007, district voters approved borrowing $18.3 million through the sale of bonds to finance the local share of the building project. The state’s share is nearly $20 million.
After Saturday’s ceremony, architect Paul Ricciuti thanked former superintendent Jim Hall for his role in seeing the project to fruition.
Hall, who in 2006 turned over the reigns to Dunham, told Ricciuti his successor deserves most of the credit.
“He’s building a highway,” Hall said. “I might have had a role in the on-ramp.”