Options mulled for buildings as bond nears vote
By Jordyn Grzelewski
School district officials now have turned their attention to a question many community members have raised: What will happen to the old school buildings if voters approve the bond issue Nov. 3 that the district would use to build a new school for kindergarten through eighth grade?
The issue was the subject of a special school board meeting Thursday night, where board members and residents weighed in on what they believe would be the best use for the buildings. The district could abate and retain ownership of the vacant buildings, sell them or demolish them.
Board members Jim Lavorini, Richard Weaver and Dr. Larry Dinopoulos expressed support for demolition of McKinley Elementary and Poland Middle School, should the ballot measure be approved.
Weaver said when the school district began the process of working with the Ohio School Facilities Commission, which would cover 19 percent of the total $35 million cost to build a new facility at the site of Dobbins Elementary, he would have done anything to save the old buildings.
After gathering community input and becoming aware of some of the challenges of doing that given the poor condition of the buildings, however, he says he now believes the buildings should be razed. He also would be open to the idea of selling them, he said.
Lavorini expressed a similar view, saying most feedback he has gotten from the community is, “If you want our vote for the bond issue, you can’t keep these buildings.”
Dinopoulos said he supports razing the buildings and converting the property into green space.
“Both of the buildings are in such poor shape, that in my opinion, the only option is to raze,” he said.
What residents and board members seemed to agree on is the importance of honoring the historic legacies of both McKinley and the middle school.
School district officials said historic elements of the old buildings can be worked into the design of the new building, and there was some discussion of building a memorial of sorts, if the buildings are razed.
The area where the two buildings stand could be turned into a green space featuring historic markers, Superintendent David Janofa said.
Board officials also confirmed that they plan to retain ownership of adjacent properties, such as the practice field near the schools, regardless of what happens with the buildings.
Some residents said they want the school board to reach a decision about the old buildings before Election Day.
“I think these are things we need to know now, before we commit tens of millions of dollars,” one resident said.
A decision was not reached Thursday.
The issue that voters will see on the ballot is a measure that asks them to authorize the school district to issue bonds – to be repaid over a maximum 34-year period – in the amount of $28,265,910, to levy a 4-mill property tax to pay for the bond and an additional 0.5-mill property tax for maintenance of the new facility.