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Lakewood Schools Construction Plan Moving Forward?

The district received notice that it could get funding approval in 2013, or 2014 at the latest.

In 2007, Lakewood City Schools officials never imagined it would take years to receive the $46 million in funding from the Ohio Schools Facilities Commission to finish the renovation projects on the three remaining schools.

But it has. 

“We thought we’d get into Phase III within just a few years,” said Superintendent Jeff Patterson. “And now, we are close to five years.”

The district received a glimmer of hope that the project could move forward in 2013 in the form of a letter from the state agency.

At the latest, the district would be approved in 2014, according to the letter sent to school officials.

In phases I and II — which are complete and paid for — Harrison, Hayes, Harding, Garfield, Horace Mann, Emerson and the western half of Lakewood High School were either completely rebuilt or renovated.

In this final phase, Roosevelt and Lincoln elementary schools would either be renovated or rebuilt and half of Lakewood High School would be rebuilt. 

“We never, ever expected that an entire class at Lakewood High School — for four years — would have to cross Franklin (Boulevard) to take classes in those modular classrooms,” he said. “But the economy tanked and here we are.” 

He said the district would rebuild the schools if the renovation costs exceeded two-thirds the cost of rebuilding.

“When they originally looked at those buildings, they tried to decide what’s best,” said Patterson. “Is it better to renovate them or rebuild them? We’ll have to have those discussions.”

In the meantime, the Lakewood School Board must first approve the application for an active planning process with the Ohio School Facilities Classroom, classroom facilities assistance program.

The board meeting is set for Thursday morning.

Included in the planning process, officials from the district and the state would determine whether it makes sense to rebuild or renovate.

The OSFC would pay an estimated $46 million of the proposed $75 million project, however those costs may need to be adjusted.

“We have to go back and calculate those numbers,” Patterson said. “Construction costs have changed.”

The district would need to come up with the difference to pay for the projects, in the form of a local levy and a permanent improvement measure.

“If we got a call this year, we’d have 13 months to pass a bond issue,” he said. “It would take another two years to finish that project.”

District spokeswoman Christine Gordillo said the OSFC is expected to make an announcement in July.

However, she noted that there are still a number of districts ahead of Lakewood so it “depends on how much money the commission will have available.” 

“If it doesn’t happen in 2013, then we would be near the top of the list in 2014,” Gordillo added.

In 2010, the OSFC funded nine projects; 14 projects in 2011; and 27 in 2012.

“We are on the next list,” said Patterson. “But there’s no guarantee here.”

“At least there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.”

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