Public Schools Propose New K-12 Complex

Louis Krauss, Staff Writer

Oberlin Public School officials are currently working to design a new K-12 school complex, one that they hope will improve both the quality of school buildings and eliminate the need for teachers to travel between buildings. Administrators are still in the planning stages and held a meeting in Mt. Zion Baptist Church this past Monday to discuss the design of the new complex.

Several different designs were proposed during Monday’s meeting, including one that features a grassy field between elementary and secondary school buildings, as well as a design for taller buildings that will allow more space for parking and athletic fields.

“This goes back to 2007, when we had our first evaluation of our buildings. And it was recommended that they be replaced, because the cost to renovate was going to be too much,” Superintendent of Oberlin City Schools John Schroth said.

Aside from the school’s impending construction, one point of dis- cussion among Oberlin residents has been the economic benefits of building another school and com- munity involvement in the building process. Several months ago, Arlene Dunn and other local residents created the Oberlin Community Benefits Coalition, an organization that advocates for local involve- ment in economic projects in order to ensure financial benefit for the community.

“This coalition did not push for the construction project; it’s just saying that if the levy is passed in November, and you go ahead with this project, we expect to make an agreement with the school before the levy is on the ballot,” Dunn said. “Because if we have this legally binding agreement with the schools that they will comply with the demands that we’re making in this agreement, we will support the levy, and we will go out and campaign for the levy.”

According to Dunn, the coalition chose the new school as its main focus due to its current standing as the largest economic develop- ment project in Oberlin. The group hopes that the project will employ a local workforce and use local building materials rather than resources from overseas. These two provisions would help ensure that the city’s economy benefits from the project.

Monday’s presentation included three-dimensional models of some of the building designs, such as an improved athletic facility featuring a larger gym and new tennis courts and football fields. As it states, specifics regarding building materials and elevations have not yet been released. Both Schroth and Ober- lin Education Board member Rosa

Gadsden said they hope that com- munity members will offer opinions regarding the types of changes they’d like to see.

“It’s important to remember that this is not ‘it’ yet. There’s still a lot of work that needs to get done,” Gadsden said. “That’s why we need your input — so we know what you would like to see. It’s very important we’re conscious about what’s going on, because once we get further on in the process, we’re not going to be able to stop.”

Although momentum may be strong, the project’s realization remains uncertain. Even after the designs and financial plans are codi- fied, state officials may decide not to endorse such a costly project.

“It will be a large bond issue [in the] November [election]. We don’t have the complete figure yet. But it’s going to be a big commitment from the community. And we understand that these are still difficult times

economically. If it [turns out to be] something the community can’t support because of the economic impact, then we’ll have to look at other options,” Schroth said.

While poor air conditioning, dilapidated buildings and a lack of security technology have all been major issues, Schroth pointed out that access to a wide array of the College’s resources remains one of the topmost benefits for the school district. Students often visit both the Allen Art Museum and Mudd library and will be granted access to the new football stadium that is currently under construction.

“The College has been fantastic in being a partner,” Schroth said. “The president and others have been very involved in the process and have been very helpful. We’re also very appreciative of all the student volunteers and all the dialogue and cooperation that we’ve had with the College.”