Issue 11 Benefits All

After years of study and debate, the local school board, to its credit, has finally put the bond issue on the ballot to start building a single-campus school designed to meet the needs of our small but special district. Despite careful stewardship over the last 50 years, we cannot further extend the health and life of the four school buildings we currently struggle to heat, cool, and maintain — all built at a time when there were about twice as many students, all sitting (often sweating) in rows upon rows of desks trying to hear the teacher, see the chalkboard, and follow along in the textbook.

Times change, and we must adapt. New teaching methods, pathways to learning, modern approaches to architecture, engineering, energy efficiency — a new building can enhance our ability to take advantage of all these.

We cannot ward off the law of diminishing returns any longer. The balance has shifted, and continuing to plow $150,000–200,000 per year into maintenance at Eastwood Elementary School, Prospect Elementary School, Langston Middle School, and Oberlin High School is not fiscally prudent.

Fortunately, we don’t need to. To educate Oberlin’s students, we need only half the space we now have. Renovate and consolidate instead? The board has already explored those options. The Ohio Facilities Construction Commission, which recommends new construction when the cost to renovate a building is more than 66 percent of the cost to build new, recommends that we build new instead of renovate, and will provide a good portion in matching funds. Nexus Pipeline money — like it or not — will soon be there for the taking as well.

Our current four-building predicament means that the district is maintaining four libraries, four gymnasiums, four cafeterias, four kitchens, four parking lots, etc. The current buildings were not designed with adequate spaces for specialized services, grandparent readers, and tutors to work with students. There are few rooms or areas for small group work. The buildings were not built with environmentally sound objectives and adequate electrical capacity for 21st-century needs. The heating systems are old and inefficient — the school district had to close recently when the weather was excessively hot.

Issue 11’s consolidation plan envisions a Pre-K–5 building on land near the high school. When it’s completed, both Eastwood and Prospect schools would be closed and sold or demolished. A second phase, beginning in about three years, would result in a 6–12 building attached to the previous building, resulting in one building holding all the grades in separate sections.

Building a new Pre-K–12 centralized campus is the wisest long-term solution, with district savings expected to reach $1.1 million per year. As with the steps already taken to realign the administrators, the superintendent and board will aim, as best they can, to sync the expected reduction in force with anticipated attrition among clerical, custodial, and cafeteria staff. Not to mention all the inevitable benefits to students, teachers, property owners, community members, and the environment.

In exchange for a $133 per year tax increase on houses with a value of $100,000 or over, homeowners will likely see a more marketable home when it comes time to sell. Generations of students today and tomorrow will likely benefit from seeing more of the sun and more of each other in a safer, greener, more comfortable complex. Music, art, language, physical education teachers, IB coordinators, school nurses and counselors, plus resource officers, and community and College tutors can all spend more time in touch with our students instead of in transit getting from one building to the next. Teachers will be able to collaborate more easily with each other, assemble students in flexible settings, and target lessons for those who are ready, regardless of what grade they are in.

Community members — even those without property or children — stand to benefit from an array of inviting spaces open to meeting the needs of various groups and gatherings after school and on the weekends, Fiplus the good vibe generated by a small, diverse town that values education. College students live here for a good part of the year — not to mention those who return or never leave — and in keeping with President Carmen Ambar’s “Good Neighbor” program, should engage with their neighbors by casting their vote on this issue. Right-minded voters of all ages should jump at the chance to vote yes on Issue 11.

Mary B. McKee
Oberlin Resident