THOMAS M. LYDEN
The Columbiana School Board will not give up on passing a levy but must deal with the poor conditions at South Side Middle School before then.
Earlier this month, district voters defeated a $4 million permanent-improvement bond issue 54 percent to 46 percent, according to the Columbiana County Board of Elections. Those results mark an improvement over the board’s attempt to pass an identical bond issue last August, which voters rejected 66 percent to 34 percent.
With that increased support in mind, the board expressed an interest this week in putting another bond issue on the ballot in November. It will vote on a new bond-issue resolution next month.
The purpose of recent bond issues has been to address the ailing facilities at South Side Middle School. Water does not drain adequately from the school’s 50-year-old flat roof, so it leaks almost constantly. As a result, trash cans are placed in hallways to collect water. Ceiling tiles turn brown.
“I don’t want to put kids in that part of the building,” Superintendent Donald Mook said at the meeting, referring to the middle school’s oldest portion, which was built in 1962.
Therefore, on Mook’s recommendation, the board approved a plan that would close the 1962 portion of the middle school while leaving the other half, which was built in 1969, open. The plan will take effect at the beginning of the next school year.
Shutting down half of the middle school will effectively displace the fifth and sixth grades. The fifth grade will move into Joshua Dixon Elementary, and the sixth grade will move into the 1969 portion of the middle school, where the seventh and eighth grades will remain.
As a result of this reorganization, the administration will convert some computer labs and other special rooms at the middle school into classrooms. In addition, with fifth-grade teachers and support staff moving to the elementary school, some reductions in staff may be necessary, according to Mook.
Board members say they hope that voters will approve the bond issue in November so that the closure of the 1962 wing of the middle school will be only temporary. However, if the issue does not pass, then the board will have to consider cutting staff and programs to pay for a new roof.
“The last thing I want to do is compromise the integrity of our programming,” Mook said.
Despite the poor physical condition of the middle school, academically it is sound. South Side Middle School earned an excellent-with-distinction rating on the state report card. And the Ohio Department of Education chose the building as one of its “Schools of Promise” — recognizing the school’s high level of performance even though at least 40 percent of the students are economically disadvantaged.
“From an instructional standpoint, we’re some of the best of the best,” Mook said. “[But] from a facilities standpoint, we’re hardly keeping up with the Joneses.”