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Top Story: School board to revisit building plan

 

Harper

CMSD NEWS BUREAU

5/17/2018

Acting on an independent watchdog’s recommendation, the Cleveland Board of Education will consider revising its master plan for building and renovating schools. 

It has been four years since the plan was last amended and six years since the District began assembling the data used to modify the document. 

The Bond Accountability Commission, which was created for the specific purpose of monitoring the ongoing modernization program, has called for an “extensive re-examination” of the plan based on current neighborhood population and enrollment patterns, changes in academic programming and rising construction costs. (Read the BAC report here.)

More recently, the state drastically limited reimbursement for Cleveland’s school construction program. The policy changes could force the District to absorb millions of dollars in additional expenses. 

Before considering revisions, the District will seek direction from the public. Community meetings will begin June 5.  The meeting schedule and other information can be found at clevelandmetroschools.org/buildingplan.

“We support the commission’s recommendation,” District CEO Eric Gordon said. “It’s logical to re-evaluate the plan under current conditions, and keeping with past practice, we want to ask for guidance from our families and other stakeholders.” 

The District has built and substantially renovated more than 40 buildings since the program began in 2002. Work is well under way on seven PreK-8 buildings and construction of two high schools is set to begin soon. 

In 2014, voters overwhelmingly approved a $200 million bond issue to help fund the remainder of the program. Plans, based on community input, called for building 20 to 22 schools and remodeling 20 to 23 schools. 

The state contributes slightly more than $2 for every $1 in local funds spent for construction and substantial renovation. 

But in an abrupt break from 16 years of practice in Cleveland, the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission has decided to virtually eliminate allowances made for the regional market’s higher building costs. The OFCC now wants to hold all districts in the state -- urban, suburban or rural -- to a maximum contribution of $255 per square foot. 

The last time the OFCC spent $255 per square foot for construction in Cleveland was in 2008. The commission is currently paying about $285 a square foot. 

Chief Operating Officer Patrick Zohn said that under the change, CMSD would have to pay an extra $20 million for the eight schools to be built in the next segment of the program.