By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN
BG Independent News
The results are in for Bowling Green City Schools’ building options survey – but the numbers are so close that school officials need time to digest the 91-page report before deciding which path to take.
“We do have some tough decisions,” Superintendent Francis Scruci said during the board of education meeting Tuesday evening.
During the past year, Scruci has held several open houses in different settings to find out if citizens want to construct new buildings, renovate the old, or do nothing. He has met with parents at each school building, with the community at coffee klatches, and with the farming community at two gatherings.
To reach even more people, surveys were mailed out recently to 2,000 randomly selected taxpayers in the Bowling Green School District, excluding BGSU. A total of 344 surveys were returned – which is a 17.2 percent response rate – higher than the average expected 10 percent return rate.
The meat of the survey asked residents to rank the building options for the district. Those choices are:
- Combine the three elementary schools into one new building, and build a new high school.
- Combine the three elementary schools into one new building, and renovate the high school.
- Renovate Conneaut, Kenwood and the high school.
- Build a new Conneaut, and renovate Kenwood and the high school.
- Keep all the buildings as they are.
Residents were asked to rank their top three choices. Coming in with the most top choice points (at 29.9 percent) was the option of combining the elementaries and building a new high school. The next top choice in the ranking (at 27.6 percent) was the option of renovating Conneaut, Kenwood and the high school. That option also had far more votes for second and third place choices.
An online survey was also made available, but was given less weight since there was no way to guarantee people didn’t duplicate their responses. The 336 online responses were very similar to the paper surveys.
“I’m glad we did a survey,” school board member Bill Clifford said. However, he added that the 344 responses “seems tiny.” Board president Ellen Scholl also expressed concerns that the top two choices seemed quite close.
The surveys asked responders to express their feelings about school building options. Each of those comments is part of the 91-page survey report that was presented to the board of education Tuesday evening.
The comments included concerns that children can’t excel in poor educational environments, to questions about eliminating neighborhood elementaries, to requests that the district keep senior citizens with fixed incomes in mind.
One person completing the survey stated that they taught in Perrysburg. “They are certain we have lost students to Perrysburg” because the facilities there are better, Scruci said.
“We’re the crux of this community,” Scruci said of the Bowling Green City Schools. “We’re never going to grow as a community unless we make some tough decisions.”
The school board praised the superintendent for putting so much effort into explaining the building options to the community and seeking input from citizens.
“I feel confident we went at it with as much transparency as we can,” board member Ginny Stewart said. “It’s taken a lot of your time,” she said to Scruci.
“The community as a whole is pro-education,” Clifford said. However, when it comes time to ask for more money, “That’s where the rubber meets the road” and people are forced to ask themselves, “What can we afford?”
Clifford complimented Scruci for meeting with so many groups, especially the farming community. “You listened, you answered their questions. You didn’t shy away from them.”
Because of the expense of hiring a survey firm, the school district contracted with Bowling Green State University professor Shannon Orr and her public administration graduate students, Toni Shoola, Kaitlyn Trent and Travis Clements.
“We got a champagne result for a beer budget,” Scruci said.
And now the board needs to come to a decision.
“We’re going to have to digest this,” the superintendent said. “We’ve heard a lot of things over the past year.”
Scruci is hoping the board will make a decision on the best building option by the May or June meeting, in order to put a bond issue on the November ballot.
“People are saying it’s time to make a decision and move forward,” he said.
Depending on which option is chosen, the renovation costs are estimated as follows:
- Conneaut Elementary, which was built in 1954: $8.24 million.
- Kenwood Elementary, which was built in 1953: $6.88 million.
- Bowling Green High School, which was built in 1963: $23.77 million.
The costs for new construction are estimated as:
- Consolidated elementary, combining the three elementaries into one new building: $32-$39 million.
- New high school building: $40-45 million.
- New Conneaut Elementary building: $13-16 million.
The costs to taxpayers for each proposal vary depending on whether the district uses a 28-year bond or a 37-year bond to finance the buildings.
For the owner of home valued at $100,000, the bond costs would range from:
- $240 to $280 a year to combine the three elementaries into one new building, plus build a new high school.
- $199 to $231 a year to combine the three elementaries into one new building, and renovate the high school.
- $120 to $137 a year to renovate Conneaut, Kenwood and the high school.
- $141 to $165 a year to build a new Conneaut, and renovate Kenwood and the high school.
- $0 to keep all the buildings as they are.