Irontonians help shape ideas for schools

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 3, 2006

Long-time Irontonian Nick McMahon watched the slide show intently, using the calculator-like device to express his ideas about how Ironton’s new schools should look.

McMahon and approximately 50 other citizens, teachers and administrators came together in the high school auditorium to meet with project architects from the firm Fanning Howey in effort offer basic input that will be used to begin the design process.

“If people don’t (provide input), then they cannot complain,” said McMahon, a man who originally opposed the $18 million school bond tax levy that will be coupled with $30 million in state funds to build three new schools over the next 5 years.

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“When it is done, I think we will have something this town can be proud of and that can bring the town back economically.”

The goal of the public forum was to help the architects get ideas about general design elements of the schools including entranceways, color schemes, outside appearances and cafeteria and library ideas. But architects and school leaders emphasized that this was only preliminary information gathering with much more to come.

“We value this input. This is the first step of a journey of a million steps,” Superintendent Dean Nance said. “Bruce Runyon, lead architect for Fanning Howey, has a blank piece of paper. There will be a lot of changes, a lot more input and a lot more ideas, but we have to start somewhere.”

The district will build three new school facilities. A new elementary school will replace Whitwell, Kingsbury and West Ironton. A new middle school will also be built. Both of those facilities would be built on land adjacent to the existing middle school on Delaware Street.

Once those buildings are completed, the existing high school will be torn down and a new high school would be built in its footprint. The school district has committed to saving the high school’s front entrance, auditorium and other architecturally significant elements. The Conley Center and Tank Memorial Stadium will not be changed.

Most of the questions in Thursday’s forum were general and subjective. The majority of those in attendance agreed that the administration areas should be easily located, the elementary schools should have vibrant colors, the cafetorium at the middle school should be centrally located and that the gymnasiums should reflect school colors.

Actual design concepts and things such as library locations gathered more diverse responses. The district will be forming design committees for each school that will offer more input to go along with ideas presented by teachers, administrators and citizens.

“They are just looking for general ideas,” said David McCown, one of the key organizers that pushed for the levy’s passage in the May 2 primary. “This is a start.”