Manchester Local Schools holds town hall about new facilities

The Manchester Local Schools Board of Education wanted to hear from the community about the direction to go regarding new and renovated facilities.

Manchester Superintendent James Robinson speaks during a town hall. (Photo by: Eric Poston)

The community responded during a recent town hall as parents, teachers and community members packed a room at the high school to discuss the subject.

Manchester is exploring a 30-year bond issue, somewhere between a 7.5 mill to 9 mill levy, which could appear on the ballot this November. If voters reject the potential issue in November, the district can put the issue on the May 2020 ballot. If the voters were to reject the issue again, the district would go to the back of the line for state funding. The average cost to a $100,000 homeowner is expected to be approximately $300 per year.

The board stressed going into the town hall that no decisions had been made and it wanted feedback before making a decision. There are four different options as the district will have to decide on if it wants to move forward by the April 1 deadline to notify the state.

The first option is to build a new high for grades 9-12; renovate and add on to the middle school for grades 5-9; renovate and add on to the existing high school to house PK-5; and demolish Nolley Elementary School.

The second option is to build one new building, which would house PK-12. All three current school buildings would be demolished under this option.

The third option is to build a new building to house grades 6-12; renovate the existing high school to house PK-5; and demolish the elementary and the middle school.

The fourth option is to renovate and add on to the existing high school to house PK-12 and to demolish the elementary and middle school.

Costs for the options range from approximately $45 to $50 million. The Ohio Facilities Construction Commission would fund 41 percent of the project.

The district gave out a survey to all the teachers and they favored the first option.

“This is a big opportunity for our kids,” Board President Richard Sponseller said. “I challenge all of you to step up to the plate and show your Manchester pride.”

Superintendent Dr. James Robinson said the reason the district is being offered the 41 percent funding is that the district’s equity rate is down compared to other districts because property values are down. Enrollment in the district has held steady with about 1,400 students and is expected to remain around that number unless new housing comes into the city.

Summit County is in the process of expanding sewer and water into New Franklin, which could spark new development, Mayor Paul Adamson said, who was present at the meeting.

Residents in attendance at the town hall raised concerns about the cost of living in New Franklin and the upcoming sewers being an additional cost.

Adamson said the city didn’t have a choice about the sewers. He said the project has been in the works by the county for several years and construction will likely begin in 2021. He expects development to come to the city once sewer and water are run.

“The schools are a big deal,” Adamson said. “When we are talking to developers, people want to know about the schools.”

He said all the districts surrounding Manchester have new buildings and the district needs a new one from an economic standpoint.

A question was also raised about what the district will do with any money its receives from the NEXUS Pipeline. Board member Joe Hercules said the district isn’t counting on that money until it is in their account.

Community members also stressed the need for gym space and having better space for special education students.

The board has stressed the needs of the district as the buildings are outdated and lack proper space and security. The high school was built in 1959, Nolley Elementary School in 1962 and the middle school in 1974.

One area the four plans don’t address is the athletic facilities. Robinson said upgrades to those could be added into the projects and would be an additional cost.

If voters approve a bond issue, the next step would be a year of design work for the new building or renovations with construction maybe starting in 2021.

Robinson said the board is planning to make a decision by the March board meeting which is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. March 19 at the Administration Building, 6075 Manchester Road.

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This story was also published in The Suburbanite. www.thesuburbanite.com