By Cory Shaffer, Sun News
(Strongsville, OH – January 14, 2013) – Open, inclusive, unique and on-budget.
That’s how representatives from GPD Group and Strongsville City Schools broke down the comprehensive construction and renovation projects lying ahead after residents approved $81 million in new bonds at the first of two community meetings Jan. 10 at Strongsville High School.
“It’s your community, it’s not ours,” said Rodwell King, a project manager at the Akron-based architecture and engineering firm. “We don’t live here, you live here, so it really needs to be your school.”
About 75 residents heard an hour long presentation outlaying both the goals of the firm and the district, and the steps needed to reach them.
GPD Principal Mark Salopek said there will be a number of opportunities for residents to be involved with and up to speed on the design process of a brand new middle school to replace Center and Albion middle schools and renovations across the district, including submitting suggestions and questions directly to he and King or participating in several meetings to come.
“We’re starting from scratch,” he said. “We want to get everyone involved.”
The architects and Superintendent John Krupinski also laid out estimates for how the $81 million will be spent.
“This is not just a construction project of a…middle school,” said Krupinski. “It’s much, much more than that.”
According to current estimates, $46.665 million will go toward the middle school replacing Center and Albion middle schools with a single, grades 6-8 building. About $656,000 of that will be for constructing athletic fields and a track.
The second biggest chunk is dedicated to renovating the high school – about $26.047 million worth. That will make critical repairs to the roof and infrastructure, including improving energy efficiency, and revamping the technology in the classrooms.
Another $3.5 million will go into renovating the district’s seven elementary schools, and just short of $2.5 million will repair the roof at the district’s transportation building and repave the roadway and lot.
Other expenditures include a little over $2 million for abatement of Center and Albion middle schools and Allen Elementary School, and $250,000 in renovations to the district’s preschool site.
The setting for the meeting – the Strongsville High School media center with its back drop of dozens of mid-decade desktop computers – proved a fitting juxtaposition as Salopek, King, Krupinski and Business Services Manager Mark Donnelly presented some of the technology that could be throughout the district when the construction is complete.
The upgrades include having a one-to-one wireless ratio, meaning each student will have access to a wireless device, audio-enhanced learning rooms and smart projectors in every classroom.
But Krupinski said the technology upgrades to the buildings will be reasoned and well thought out.
“We need to take our time on this,” he said. “What’s state of the art today might not be tomorrow.”
Of course, the technology won’t just stop in the classroom.
King said the building will be a minimum LEED Silver rating, as required by the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission for the school to get a 7 percent reimbursement of funds, but it doesn’t have to stop there – he designed Guidestone Elementary School in Berea, one of only 19 LEED Gold buildings in the state.
LEED, which stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is a program to incentivize the construction of sustainable buildings.
“This is great because it will reduce your operating costs now and in the future,” Salopek said.
The schools’ facilities task force has estimated those savings on energy to be about $1.5 million annually, which Krupinski has said could be used to institute all-day kindergarten.
But how long will all this take?
Salopek pegged the initial projection at 12 months for design and 18-24 for construction on both the middle school and high school projects.
When a member of the audience pointed out that would put the opening date at the 2016-17 school year, Salopek explained that the projections are “typical” of what past projects have been.
“Some of this work has already been done,” he said. “This is going to be a very quick project.”
Krupinski was quick to reaffirm his hopes to have the projects done in time for the 2015-16 school year.
“However, there are so many factors that could infringe upon that,” Krupinski said. “But we don’t have a crystal ball.”