December 20, 2014

Elyria
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Oberlin district falls down list for state construction funding

OBERLIN — Gains made in recent months by other Ohio school systems trying to secure state money to get new schools constructed has thwarted Oberlin’s effort to move up on the waiting list.

Oberlin Schools officials were notified last week that their wait for money from the Ohio Schools Facilities Commission for a consolidated educational facility housing preschool through 12th grade is being pushed back for up to five years.

“They told us last spring that things looked good for 2014, and we worked diligently toward that goal so we’d be prepared for that funding offer,” Superintendent John Schroth said.

Ranked 488th out of 612 school districts statewide, Oberlin figured to be within striking distance of state dollars to pay for 20 percent of total costs for the major project, which still requires passage of a bond issue, after school districts a few spots in front of them declined OSFC money.

That positive picture changed when state officials informed the district its timeline for receiving OSFC funds would be moved back due to increased participation in the commission’s funding efforts by other Ohio school systems that were fueled in part by passage of more bond issues for new schools.

“They told us it doesn’t look very good next year or the year after that,” Schroth said. “There’s 140 districts ahead of us with declined or delayed funding, and we expect a number of those to come forward with bond issues.”

Despite this decided bump in the road, it isn’t derailing the district’s plans.

“We need to go back and re-group to take a look at how we can move forward” with the school system’s master plan, Schroth said.

Officials are already researching alternative funding and building options that will be presented for discussion to the district’s Facilities Commission next week.

“We can begin without that (state) funding but it does mean we would be paying for everything up front,” Schroth said.

Options could include a phased-in project that would see construction in stages — as money becomes available — of a consolidated pre-K-12 building. The single-campus idea has been deemed the least costly, the most energy and operationally efficient, and the least disruptive to the district as a whole.

“The state favors a single campus and that’s still our focus,” Schroth said.

Officials are now considering a bond issue fro the November ballot.

Contact Steve Fogarty at 329-7146 or sfogarty@chroniclet.com.