Clear Fork survey takers want new elementary schools

BOE wants further public opinion

By Zach Jones -

The results are in and interested residents of the Clear Fork Valley want new elementary schools.

The development is according the Clear Fork Local School District’s recent attempt to involve public opinion in their decision regarding the aging Butler and Bellville Elementary schools.

“The results from the informal survey, taken online during fair week showed that of over 1,100 responses, the overwhelming majority were in favor of replacing our elementary schools,” said Clear Fork School Board president Jim DeSanto.

Among the thousand responses, residents were spilt on how to best tackle the rapidly declining elementary schools.

Residents were given the choice between constructing two entirely new facilities or one combined elementary school that would house students from both Butler and Bellville.

School officials said Bellville and Butler Elementary are beyond the point of reasonable renovation.

“The buildings are in need of a serious update,” said DeSanto. “They are no longer cost effective to maintain.”

The district previously attempted to bring the elementary school duo up-to-date with a ballot issue that would have placed roughly a quarter of the reconstruction costs on local tax payers with the state taking on the additional construction costs, DeSanto said. The voter initiative was ultimately shot down by Clear Fork residents.

However, as state educational funding continues to dwindle, board of education members fear that a larger tax burden will fall on area residents, as educators continue to look for a solution for the deteriorating elementary schools.

“As it stands right now the state would pay about 61 percent of the costs of the school updates through the Ohio Facicilities Construction Commission (OFCC),” DeSanto said. “So that leaves about 39 percent of the cost on a local level, but the longer we wait the larger the disparity will be.”

The OFCC is the state commission responsible for spearheading construction projects among Ohio’s various agencies and public education facilities.

“There are variety of issues that we need to address,” DeSanto said. “Neither of the schools are easily handicap accessible. Currently, we have to shuffle things around to accommodate students and guests.”

Secondly, the buildings’ ages make assembling a modern classroom a tough task for elementary educators, and as DeSanto put it, “Neither building has classrooms that are set up for modern technology.”

According to an independent financial institution’s report given at last week’s school board meeting, the district will be able to finance the elementary school’s construction with a district-wide tax renewal.

“The state requests that the board reach a decision regarding which option it will select in the next 30 days if we are to put a tax renewal to fund the construction on the March 2016 ballot,” DeSanto said.

“At this time, state formula figures show the cost to build two smaller elementary buildings is approximately 15 percent more than the cost of building one larger elementary building,” he said. “However, the estimates do not yet include the cost of extending public utilities such as water, sewer,

electric or gas from off-site to the property.”

That fact is key for narrowing down possible construction sites, as the district will aim to pinpoint a location that is close to pre-existing public utilities to keep costs at a minimum.

In order to further public discourse regarding the elementary issue, the district will host three public meetings for residents to voice their opinions to the board. The meetings will take place Oct. 19 at 6:30 p.m. in Butler Elementary, Oct. 20 at 6:30 p.m. in Bellville Elementary and Oct. 21 at 6:30 p.m. in Clear Fork High School’s library. Additionally, the district will be mailing out a second survey for registered voters to complete regarding construction procedures.
BOE wants further public opinion

By Zach Jones