NORTH RIDGEVILLE — With less than three months before voters decide the fate of a bond issue for a proposed $58.1 million new middle school, the campaign to pass the issue got under way Thursday night.
About 50 people gathered at the North Ridgeville Education Center to hear Superintendent Jim Powell, a representative of an architectural firm and others begin discussion of the multi-pronged approach that will be needed to get residents to approve a 4.95-mill bond issue that would run 34 years and cost owners of homes valued at $100,000 about $14.50 a month.
Powell said it was important to be “open and honest” with residents, and to offer transparency to convince people of the need for the new school, which would house grades 3 through 8 and be built on district-owned land near North Ridgeville High School.
The building would replace the existing school, built in 1923, that houses grades 6 to 8. Originally designed to hold 780 students, the school is projected to have 990 pupils this fall.
The new school would greatly relieve crowded conditions at Liberty and Wilcox Elementary Schools, each of which now has 200 to 250 more pupils than either location was designed to hold.
The school system’s overcrowding was judged severe enough that it was ranked No. 1 in the state out of 24 Ohio districts that applied for state money for a new school through the Exceptional Needs Program of the Ohio School Facilities Commission, according to William Greene, assistant superintendent of building services.
Faith Dragan and Lora Baker were among those who gathered to hear officials begin mapping out what needs to be done to wage a successful bond issue campaign.
“It’s so frustrating when you look at a lot of surrounding communities and see the beautiful new (school) buildings they have,” Baker said.
A guidance counselor at North Ridgeville High School, Baker spoke of the disappointed looks she’s seen on people’s faces when they see the types of facilities local schools have versus those of newer schools in surrounding communities such as Avon.
“Why not us?” Baker said. “North Ridgeville is a good place to live. First impressions are huge. Perceptions really can be reality.”
“We want to do more for our kids,” Dragan said. “They are our future.”
A North Ridgeville resident, Dragan will begin substituting in school district cafeterias this fall.
Joseph R. DeLuca of the Dublin-based architectural-engineering firm of Fanning Howey, told the group a major focus of the bond issue campaign’s strategy will be “to sway the 40 percent of voters in the middle that could go either way.”
Initial estimates are 5,800 “yes” votes will be needed to pass the bond issue.
“We expect some 10,000 voters to turn out based on off-year general election numbers,” DeLuca said as he advised the district “not to dwell” on the “hard-core 30 percent who vote ‘no’ regardless.”
The Citizens for Better Schools Committee, which organizes levy and bond issue campaigns, plans to have volunteers at every school event including athletic contests starting with next week’s back-to-school activities.
Small-group coffees and teas are also in the offing.
At the mention of a wine event, a member of the committee said “whatever works. We’re not picky.”
A series of school open houses and campaign meetings are planned to start next week and continue into October.
For more details, visit www.nrcbs.org, the district’s Facebook page, and to submit questions for school officials, email NRCBSInfo@gmail.com.