XENIA — A committee assembled to support and promote the bond issue for a new Xenia middle school will kick off its campaign this week.
The group, which is called Citizens for Continued Excellence, according to its campaign finance disclosure statement, will attempt to educate Xenia Community School District residents as to the importance of the 2.6-mill property tax levy on the Nov. 3 ballot. If approved, it will cost the owner of a $100,000 home around $7.58 a month and generate $36 million for construction, according to the voteforxenia.com website.
The district tried three previous times to pass a bond issue to build a new high school/middle school complex off U.S. 42, but it failed each time. Superintendent Dr. Gabe Lofton convened a visioning committee which worked for more than two years to survey the community and come up with a recommendation to the school board: replace Warner, which was built in 1962.
According to the state’s assessment done several years ago, WMS, originally built in 1962, has several main systems — including heating, electrical, fire alarm, and plumbing — that are in need of replacement, while significant repairs are necessary for the roof and ventilation system. Other issues with the more-than 50-year-old structure include a non-compliant security system, a lack of central air conditioning, and inadequate and non-compliant handicapped access. The report also noted that the overall facility is not equipped with an automated fire suppression system.
Warner houses 1,100 students daily and is no longer able to meet the needs of those students, according to district officials. Projections also show that the population of middle school-age students in the Xenia district will increase in the coming years.
Lofton said the school should eventually recoup 46 percent of the cost from the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission and its Expedited Local Partnership Program, which was created to allow a school district to expend local resources to proceed with new construction, additions, or repairs prior to it being eligible for state assistance.
“Our kids deserve this and this community deserves it,” said Marsha Bayless, former Xenia mayor and committee co-chair. “I went to Warner when I was in school. That building is completely outdated. If we intend on being competitive, because it’s a competitive market, and if we plan to do that and if we want our kids to have the latest in technology — and not even to be so far in front of everybody — but just to be with everybody else who have also moved forward, we have to do this.”
Co-chair Stephanie Stephan, who has one child at Warner now and will have another there next year, said the new building will be built on board-owned land where Warner is now and it will maintain that “neighborhood feel” while providing the best education opportunity for students.
She called Warner a “busy hectic building with a lot of great students and great teachers and educators who deserve to have modern facilities to propel our kids into the future.”
Stephan said the campaign will be based on factual numbers.
“We are not trying to hide anything,” she said. “We are fully transparent. We’re not going to let people put out their own numbers and what they think it will cost.”
Co-Chair Brian Stephan said to keep Warner operating now and do the needed updates would be cost prohibitive when compared to building new. He added that a lot of the previous “no” votes were because the schools would have been moved to a different location. The high school will be upgraded but not moved either.
“I think that’s a big deal too,” Brian Stephan said. “I think a lot of people didn’t want the high school moved. I think that was a major issue.”
Keeping Warner where it is currently located is “a huge deal,” he added.
The committee is still working out some details due to COVID-19, but some gatherings where residents can ask questions will be planned, in addition to information being available on the website and through the mail.
The Gazette has reached out to those against the bond issue and will present their side in a future edition.