Ironton high will remain, report says

Published 12:00 am Saturday, November 20, 1999

Ironton educators’ wishes came true this week.

Saturday, November 20, 1999

Ironton educators’ wishes came true this week.

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The Ohio School Facilities Commission will allow the old high school and middle school buildings to remain, rather than replace them with new construction in years to come.

"Personally, that is pretty much what I was hoping for," said superintendent Steve Kingery, who met with commission officials Thursday.

"I could not have seen this community supporting vacating that high school," Kingery said. "It sits on a beautiful campus and has become a focal point for this community."

Commission officials have given the district a proposed "master plan" for school construction, the first step in the lengthy state funding process.

Although subject to revision during the next several years, the plan outlines the refurbishment of the high school and middle school, and calls for a new building to replace Whitwell, Kingsbury and West Ironton elementaries, Kingery said.

The commission’s decision to replace the elementaries was based on a state eligibility formula, he said.

"Taking into account the number of students in the buildings, they simply were not eligible for refurbishment," he said.

The commission found all school buildings structurally sound, with only part of the middle school roof due for replacement, Kingery said.

Refurbishment plans for the high school and middle school include:

– New floors, ceilings, walls, woodwork, doors and other interior surfaces.

– Central heat and air conditioning for the classroom building and sportscenter.

– Walls inside the stairwells.

– A sprinkler and fire alarm system.

– Reducing the number of access points to the school for security reasons.

"One aspect that the commission did not support is the refurbishment of the high school auditorium, other than central heat and air," Kingery said.

The district already has reworked the auditorium’s electrical system, and has added theater lighting and a sound room, but state authorities will not allocate funds for replacing seats and carpet, he said.

"We have a plan to accomplish that otherwise, by securing a no-interest loan, and we will use some ADA money to make the facility handicapped accessible."

Also, the district cannot use state funds to refurbish the auto mechanics shop where buses are repaired and the industrial arts building, Kingery said.

"They have been maintained well structurally, and if things go well in future we might do something to dress them up," he said.

Overall, the district’s meeting with the school facilities commission was informative, Kingery said.

"I get the sense that those folks really want to help school districts and really want to help us build and/or refurbish our schools to the point where we can help the community," he said.

Kingery plans to detail the master plan to board of education members at Monday night’s 6 p.m. meeting and to seek board approval of advisory committees.

One committee will be business representatives, another will be community members and parents, and a third will represent administrators, teaching staff and support staff, Kingery said.

"Then we need to start talking about the process of selecting an architect, who can start helping us in January or February," he said.

The school system might run a bond levy for new schools as early as November 2000, if the state allocates funds for the next 35 statewide construction projects, Kingery said. Ironton is 35 on that list.

"It will probably be April at the earliest that we would know if we’re eligible to run a levy then," he said. "The state is going to come up with a dollar figure and depending on what that is, Ironton will fall in the November 2000 time frame or the 2001 time frame."

Kingery is "cautiously optimistic" that the district will make the 2000 ballot.

"We’ve been waiting a long time for additional schools money from the state … and when you get to this point, you start getting kind of eager," he said. "I’m sure everyone else is saying, ‘Now is our chance,’ but we have to realize it could be 2001 before they actually do anything."