By Scott Halasz
XENIA — The Xenia Community School District will pursue replacing the high school and Warner Middle School with one new building.
The board of education recently submitted a plan to the Ohio Schools Facilities Commission, which would fund nearly half of the estimated $55 million project. The combined building would consist of approximately 280,000 square feet with middle-school age students and high-school age students on opposite ends of the building and shared spaces separating the two groups.
In order to take advantage of the state’s offer to contribute $28.5 million, the school district will have to pass a bond issue — most likely in November — to fund its local share. It is estimated to be 3.9 mills, which will cost the owner of a $100,000 home less than $12 a month, according to school officials.
“The appeal of the combined building option among staff, parents, and residents was strong, and from a value perspective — the plan also made the most economic sense,” said Superintendent Denny Morrison. “It would mean a brand new, modern building for all our middle and high school students while helping the district take advantage of significant funding assistance from the State of Ohio and save money in future budgets.”
State assessments identified several issues including lack of fire suppression systems, water-damaged ceilings, building infrastructure that cannot support modern educational technology, rusted and collapsed pipes with failing shut-off valves, unreliable heating systems, and numerous issues with ADA compliance. The state’s estimate for addressing the issues was more than $46 million.
That estimate did not include costs addressing space issues. According to the state’s assessment, both buildings are too small to accommodate projected enrollment and require an addition. Due to the cost of repairing and renovating the two buildings being nearly as much as the cost of building new, the State of Ohio recommended replacing Warner Middle School and Xenia High School with new buildings.
In early 2016 the school district initiated a community engagement process to help gather input into plans to address the buildings. Warner was constructed in 1962, and Xenia High School in 1976. Initial discussions, which kicked off in February with the first of several community forums, began with creating an awareness of the age, condition, and limitations – as well as the costs associated – with the two buildings, according to Assistant Superintendent of Business Operations Christy Fielding.
The public was presented with three options in addition to the one chosen: Constructing two new buildings; constructing a new high school and converting the current high school into a junior high; and renovating and expanding the current buildings.
“This plan was selected for a number of reason, including the benefit of being more operationally cost-efficient than running two separate buildings in geographically separate locations,” Fielding said. “Eliminating construction costs associated with duplicating shared spaces like cafeterias, kitchens, auditoriums, and gymnasiums, along with a single mechanical and operational plant, were also viewed as having the potential to help with ongoing operating and maintenance costs down the road.”
Other appeals of the concept that surfaced during the community engagement process included increased and expanded opportunities for the students: more and earlier access to advanced classes and career training for middle school students and new peer-mentoring opportunities by older students, according to Fielding. Easing the transition from middle school to high school was also seen as a benefit with a combined school.
In addition, proximity would provide greater collaboration opportunities for teaching staff and make it convenient for parents to have one location for after-school events, extracurricular activities, and school-day drop-off and pick-ups, officials said.
If the project moves forward, it would be considered segment 2. Segment 1 was completed in 2013 when the district constructed five elementary schools with funding from the OSFC.
Additional information about the project, State assessments, and the community engagement process can be found on the district’s website at www.xenia.k12.oh.us – click on the “Facility Plan” link on the left.
Contact Scott Halasz at 937-502-4507.