Lake Local makes another ballot bid

CantonRep.com staff report

Lake elementaryLAKE TWP. — Overcrowding in classrooms and one building that is nearly 90 years old are reasons why Lake Local Schools officials are pursuing a bond issue next month.
The district is asking voters to support a 2.3-mill measure. Plans are to use 1.8 mills toward bonds to pay for new construction, while a 0.5-mill continuing levy will generate money for building maintenance.Local money — just less than $12.8 million — raised will be matched with about $23 million from the Ohio School Facilities Commission to build a new high school building and improve existing buildings.

“It’s a need, not a want,” Lake Local Superintendent Jeff Wendorf said of Issue 26.

Lake tried to pass the same measure during the May primary election. The attempt failed by 167 votes.

The district actually has made three bids to secure local matching money to go with OSFC funds. In February 2009 the district sought voter approval of a 4.9-mill issue and overwhelmingly rejected the measure. That defeat convinced school officials to change their plan and reduce the amount of their request.

LAKE’S PLAN

The proposed changes touch every level of the district, Wendorf said.

A new high school classroom building would be part of the current community center campus, which includes the existing high school and middle school. Most of the campus was developed after Lake Local residents in 1999 approved a 6.9-mill bond issue that generated $26.4 million for construction and building improvements.

More classroom space is needed at the high school to accommodate a larger student population. Right now the district has a leased trailer outside the school to provide additional classroom space.

“Trailers are a horrible investment. Horrible,” Wendorf said. “And not ideal for instruction.”

The new high school would be built on the northwest corner of the campus. The current high school would become the middle school, and grades 3 to 5 would move from elementary buildings into the current middle school.

Early designs are for a high school building with flexible classroom areas where classes geared to collaboration, problem solving and communications can be taught. Wendorf said it’s a chance to build a space to help prepare students for college and the workplace.

The building would be connected to existing facilities, where the district already has an auditorium, competition gymnasium and other amenities.

OTHER BUILDINGS

The Lake and Uniontown elementary buildings would house kindergarten through second grade, along with pre-kindergarten classes. Right now the district leases space for the pre-kindergarten classes. Wendorf said Uniontown Elementary was built to accommodate 350 students, but there are 500 using the building.

The changes would allow Lake Local to stop using Hartville Elementary, which opened in 1922.

The building is polished and cared for, but it’s outdated, Wendorf said. A new high school would be more energy efficient and less expensive to operate than the aged high school, he said.

Passing the issue also gives the district a permanent improvement fund to provide $207,000 for general maintenance of district buildings. Right now the general fund must cover building maintenance, which takes money away from education programs.

Without the permanent improvement fund, the district will go through its operating funds faster, which will force it to seek another levy sooner, Wendorf said. The district has eliminated $3 million of spending to absorb state funding reductions, he said.

Wendorf said he hopes district voters agree to pass the bond issue while the state still has OSFC funding in place. He’s concerned the state will decide the money is needed elsewhere and end the program before Lake receives its share of funds.