Warren district views vision of new schools

VINCENT — Members of the Warren Local Schools community witnessed the next step in the $61 million school rebuilding project Thursday night with a presentation by representatives of the project design firm and its engineering company.

After six hours of consultation earlier in the day with senior staff and board members, Jennifer Fuller of the Columbus design firm Fanning Howey offered a vision of what comes next in the project.

Fuller was careful to tell the gathering that the project is not yet at the stage where a firm schedule can be set out. Rather, the community and the school authorities can start thinking about what they want the new school complex to look like and feel like and how it needs to operate to serve students best.

She offered several examples of elementary school design ranging from the traditional to more contemporary architectural layouts.

Superintendent Kyle Newton noted that the project has hit its first unexpected change. He said he had been informed by the state that all school designs after November — which is now, he added — must incorporate tornado shelters of very specific design, including the ability to withstanding 200 mph winds and any debris that might be hurled at that speed.

“I got the email about three weeks ago. Any building now has to have a storm shelter with high-level requirements,” he said. “Five square feet per student, its own bathrooms, a separate HVAC system.”

Newton said the shelter can be a gymnasium or cafeteria built to the specifications — it doesn’t have to be a separate, dedicated structure.

It will add $1.4 million to the cost of construction, he said, of which Warren Local will have to pay about $350,000, with the state picking up the remainder. The money can come out of a contingency fund, he said.

“I wish we’d known this before we went to the voters,” he added. The bond was approved on the May ballot.

Fuller told the group that the next step will be the visiting process, in which the school staff, administration, board, community and students begin discussing the form and function of the school buildings, and at that time the mechanical, electrical and plumbing team will come into the picture.

The project will consolidate all three of the district’s schools on one site, where the middle school is now located. With two of the three schools being located on another site, she said, students in the elementary and high schools will not be interrupted by construction, but the middle school will be another story.

“The biggest thing is, the middle school, football field and Building 6 are not going to move,” Fuller said. “Building 6 will be integrated into the new high school with a gym and auditorium.”

When asked whether the new elementary school will be a single level building, Newton said it will probably be two levels,.

“The elementary and high school will probably be two stories because it’s more cost effective, occupies a smaller footprint and is easier to expand,” he said.

Newton said one of the considerations in the design phase will be how big to make the buildings and how to design them for future expansion.

“We don’t want to build these buildings and find out two years later they’re too small,” he said. “I heard today, for example, that there could be 100,000 jobs coming to the Mid-Ohio Valley. We’re going to be one of the newest, best academic districts in the area, and people will move here,” he said.

Newton said the district will be interviewing three finalists next week for construction manager at-risk: Baton Mallow of Southfield, Milch., Robertson Construction Services of Heath, Ohio, and Elford, Inc. of Columbus.