Millions needed for school repairs

By Scott Halasz -

XENIA — Xenia schools will need to spend millions over the next several years just to keep its two biggest schools “warm, safe and dry” according to a third-party assessment and district officials.

A draft building assessment was presented to the school board and administrators during the May 14 board of education meeting. While not final and still awaiting input from mechanical and electrical engineers, it highlighted more than $42 million in work needed at Xenia High School and Warner Middle School, most of which were need-based items and not want-based items, according Jerry Dirr, a principal with SHP Leading Design.

The district had attempted unsuccessfully three times in 2016 and 2017 to pass a bond issue that would have produced about $34 million toward a $62 million project to build a new high school-middle school complex near US Route 35 and State Rouse 42 at Ledbetter Road. The State of Ohio had pledged nearly $29 million toward the project, but it was contingent on the bond issue passing.

Despite the bond issue failing, the district was still facing myriad issues with the high and Warner, which SHP highlighted. Recommendations include interior building upgrades for securing entrances and exists and upgrading door hardware and security cameras for safety; masonry repairs, window and door replacements, and roof repairs to keep the buildings dry; and electrical upgrades, parking lot resurfacing, technology upgrades, and mechanical system upgrades including boiler replacements, heating and air conditioning repairs and upgrades, to keep students warm.

Including routine maintenance items at the fairly new elementary school buildings, and needed work at the other district buildings, the assessment shows a cost of around $73 million over 10 years, which would bring all the buildings up to code, Dirr said.

The board will discuss the assessment further — and likely the need for a visioning committee — at its June 11 meeting.

“The need for a renewed approach to master facilities planning for our school system, created and driven by community stakeholders, is critically important in the coming months,” said Xenia Community School Superintendent Dr. Gabe Lofton. “SHP’s assessment affirms the need for us to create a Master Facilities Plan with the hopes of getting back in line to receive state funding to offset the cost of these building improvements.”

The district could try for another bond issue, or it could spend money from its general fund, which could lead to a new operating levy in the future. That was stressed by district officials during the last levy campaign.

“Our town missed a golden opportunity to save millions,” Board Member Dr. Paul Dillaplain said. “And too bad.”

The visioning committee will begin work in August to clarify what education in the district should look like in the future and and how facilities would support learning.

By Scott Halasz