SOS may support school levy

Published 12:00 am Thursday, December 29, 2005

The two sides in the debate over whether Ironton voters should pass an $18 million school bond levy may be ready to put their differences aside.

Members of the Save Our School committee are expected to attend Monday evening’s Ironton City Schools Board of Education meeting and announce their support of the school bond issue and levy that will be placed before the voters for a second time in February.

The $18-million bond levy is necessary to provide the local matching funds for $30.28 million in funding from the Ohio School Facilities Commission. The total $48.28 million would fund the construction of three new schools, but would require the demolition of the eight decades’ old high school building. The debate over the high school has sparked much of the debate between supporters and opponents of the levy.

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The Save Our School committee opposed the plan in November in large part due to the requirement that Ironton High School, constructed in 1922, would be demolished.

The measure was defeated in November by 185 votes. Later that month, school board members approved a change in the language for the February ballot that SOS members found more acceptable.

“We had previously indicated to the school board that we understand their desire for larger and newer classrooms. We also indicated to them we would support the levy if they commit to saving the auditorium, front entrance and other areas of an historic nature and they have come to us and given us that commitment,” SOS member Mark McCown said.

Ironton School Superintendent Dean Nance said he would be delighted if the SOS group opts to support the levy.

“It would please me to see the entire community come together for the best interest of our students and the future,” Nance said. “I think the SOS committee has showed that there is definitely some love and passion toward preserving aspects of our past.

“I think that the board acknowledges that and made a good faith effort by changing the ballot language to allow for the possibility of maintaining the front entrance of the school and incorporating any items of historical significance in this project,” Nance said.

In a related matter, one school plan that apparently has been nixed was the suggestion by the Ironton Port Authority to explore the possibility of building a new high school on the site of the former River Valley Hospital and thus saving, at least temporarily, the current high school building. The current high school building, IPA members suggested, could be used for other economic development pursuits.

Members of the Ironton Port Authority had first broached the subject at a public meeting in late November. At that time, IPA members suggested that that Our Lady of Bellefonte Hospital, which owns the site, may be willing to part with the property if funds to help with the demolition of the vacant River Valley building could be located.

IPA officials say they are working to secure grant funding through the Clean Ohio Fund.

School officials and members of the IPA have met with OLBH administrators to explore the possibilities of using the land for either school construction or for economic development pursuits for the IPA.

Nance confirmed Friday that after considering the OLBH site, members of the school board determined the site was not a suitable location for the high school. He would not comment on how that determination was made. The school board has not, however, voted on such a decision.

Ironton Port Authority Chairman Bill Dickens said the school district may not need the site but he is sure some entity somewhere will find it useful and useable.

“We (the IPA) are going to explore various possibilities for the reuse of the land,” he said.