NORTH RIDGEVILLE — Officials will carefully plan the first new school to be built in the city in more than 40 years, since it is expected to impact how local students are educated for at least 75 years.
“North Ridgeville is at a critical point,” Superintendent James Powell told a crowd of roughly 100 who turned out at the North Ridgeville Education Center for the first of a series of public forums to update the community on plans for the new $58.1 million middle school projected to be ready during the 2016-17 school year.
“We need to take serious looks at everything to make sure the new school is well-planned,” Powell said to kick off a two-hour public forum.
The biggest construction project the community has seen in decades, the new school is expected to encompass 232,000 square feet on two floors.
Powell noted that enrollment is growing by about 100 students each year.
Voters said yes to a $58.1 million bond issue for the new school last November.
The 2,200-student building will replace a 1920s school that long ago out-grew its 760-student capacity, and which has been plagued by flooding and other structural problems for years.
The meeting also included discussion of ensuring the new school offers students the best “learning environment” for the challenges of the 21st-century workforce.
This topic struck a chord with several in the audience who spent a considerable portion of the question-and-answer period pressing officials over the wisdom of possible “open” classrooms in the new building.
“There is this misconception that we are going to have large classrooms and fewer teachers,” Powell said. “It’s not going to be that way.”
Powell reiterated several times that no decisions have been reached on the school’s design. “We’re being very cautious in terms of design,” Powell said. “We have no preconceived ideas.”
One mother asked the appropriateness of having students of all skill levels in the same class, as is the case at Liberty Elementary.
Liberty Principal Greg Plantner defended the concept, saying it is working for pupils at the school.
Chris Smith, a partner with Then Design Architects (TDA), the Willoughby-based architects chosen to design the school, said his firm has worked on more than $1 billion K-12 school projects in Ohio.
“We’re going to do everything we can to make sure we build the best school in Ohio,” Smith said.
TDA’s other local school projects include the new Lorain High School and a planned grades 4-8 school in Wellington.
Regency-Infinity, a partnership of two Cleveland-area firms, recently was selected as the project’s construction manager.
John Sanner, principal-in-charge for Regency-Infinity, told the audience his firm’s resume includes All Pro Freight Stadium in Avon as well as school projects in Lakewood, Bay Village and the new Elyria High School.
More than 600,000 man-hours are expected to be invested in the new school’s construction, Sanner said, with many North Ridgeville and Lorain County residents to be part of the construction force.
“We find that direct stakeholders really pay attention,” Sanner said.
Bill Greene, assistant superintendent of building services, said the $58.1 million bond issue includes a half-mill maintenance fund for future repairs and upkeep.
The Ohio Facilities Construction Commission is anteing up $8.9 million for the new school, which when added to the $58.1 million from the bond issue, totals $67 million, said Treasurer Biagio Sidoti.
North Ridgeville is assessing ways of serving the community with health and medical services, and fitness and wellness programs via partnerships with area health providers or other organizations.
“We want the school to be the center of the community,” Powell said.
Money will be generated via naming rights for various components of the projected $5 million school stadium ranging from the field and scoreboard to press box and concession stand.
The exact location of the school is yet to be determined, but it will rise on a portion of 100-plus acres of school-owned land near the high school off Bainbridge Road.
A project timeline calls for the school’s final design plans to be completed by spring of 2015, and construction to begin by summer 2015.
The new Ranger Stadium looks to be built in the spring or summer of 2015 and be ready for North Ridgeville’s 2015 entry into the new Southwestern Conference with Amherst, Avon, Lakewood, North Olmsted, Westlake and other schools.