ICS group meets to plan for future

Published 12:00 am Saturday, April 30, 2005

"Tremendously exciting."

That's the way one member described the task that awaits the newly formed Ironton City Schools Facility Steering Committee.

Committee members met Wednesday for the first time in their effort to determine whether to renovate or rebuild the city's aging school buildings and to pass a levy to pay for the effort; a second meeting is planned for this Wednesday.

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"We've waited on this for a long time. We've seen other districts pass us by and get new schools. I'm excited about the opportunity to move forward," committee co-chair Jay Zornes said.

The meeting last week was the first opportunity some of the committee members had to see first-hand what was expected of them as a group and what work is ahead of them as they lead the charge for new or improved school facilities.

"It was very informational," committee co-chair Lauren Schweikart said. "It was a little overwhelming. It's going to take a lot of hard work to get this school levy passed in Ironton. I was hoping it wouldn't cost the city so much money. I shouldn't complain, the state is paying for 73 percent of it but 27 percent (is the local share), and this is a depressed area."

Schweikart said getting a levy passed may well be the greatest challenge ahead of the district and it's newly formed facilities committee.

"The hardest part may be convincing the community we need to renovate or rebuild our schools and convince them it is worth the money," she said. "We have to convince people that new or renovated buildings would actually enhance education. You look at Ironton High School. From the outside, it's beautiful but you go inside and it needs work. That's what I hope people will do. I hope people will fill out the survey (about preferences for renovation or new construction) and then I hope they go through these buildings and look at them."

The committee reviewed the assessment of the district's facilities and the three recommendations from Ohio School Facilities Commission for improving the district's structures. The three options proposed by the OSCF are:

4Renovate the high school to accommodate grades 7-12 and building a new pre-Kindergarten to grade 6 elementary school at the current middle school site.

4 Two totally new facilities, one to house pre-kindergarten to sixth grade and one for grades 7-12.

4 Keep the Conley gymnasium at the high school but separate it from the rest of the high school, build a new high school for grades 9-12, and build a new, connected elementary and middle school.

"The committee could choose any of those three options or could come up with its own plan and see if the state accepts it," Superintendent Dean Nance said. "But whatever is decided, it must be sent to the state by June 1."

Zornes said he thinks the greatest challenge will be to "come out with the right plan. There are these three options and I think the biggest challenge will be to get 28 or 30 people together to agree on a plan and then, those same people, no matter how they felt going in, to be unified on whatever is decided and work together to pass the levy," he said.

A community forum is slated for May 26 at Ohio University Southern.