Late to class

MINERAL RIDGE — Typically, students in the Weathersfield School District would head back to classes this week with many of their counterparts across the Mahoning Valley.

However, because of the district’s renovation and new building project, the start of school this year has been delayed close to two weeks with students scheduled to head back to class Sept. 9.

Part of the project involves creating “swing spaces” or areas where students can be housed temporarily while work is being completed on the schools over the next year.

Officials said they delayed the start of school to allow workers enough time to renovate Mineral Ridge Middle School to accommodate students in K-6 who would normally attend Seaborn Elementary School. Instead, those students will spend the 2013-14 school year at the middle school. Seaborn is expected to reopen in fall 2014.

Junior high students will have classes in a modular unit at the high school until they move into the high school in January.

“We have to make some adjustments, but that’s to be expected with a project like this. But everything is going really well. We are under budget and on time. That’s always a good combination and a good place to be,” said Superintendent Damon Dohar.

The school district broke ground at Seaborn in April to kick off the $25.4 million demolition, renovation and new building project, which involves renovating and adding onto the district’s existing buildings. Work at the high school and Seaborn started this summer. Construction is expected to start next month.

The project is funded by a $17.8 million Ohio Schools Facilities Commission grant and a $7.5 million local share. An additional $529,139 was added in local funds to help pay for construction of a $1.5 million junior-high gymnasium at the high school.

Seaborn is being expanded from a K-4 building to a K-6. The plan calls for 46 percent of the building to be demolished and renovated with a 60,000 square foot addition to be done.

The middle school is to be demolished in the winter of 2015, except for the administrative offices, cafeteria and the bus garage.

Demolition and construction also are planned at the high school, which will become a grades 7-12 building. The high school size will increase from 83,000 square feet to 90,000 square feet.

Nine new classrooms are planned for the junior high wing, along with the construction of a new gym for junior high students.

The remainder of the building will be renovated.

“A lot of work, planning and shifting has taken place but it’s worth it,” Dohar said. “This is a much-needed project and our students deserve the best that we can give them.”

The school district started working on the project in 2008. The district was approved for a $19 million OSFC grant in 2009, but voters denied its request for a local levy to pay for the district’s portion. Voters denied several of the district’s requests over the next few years, but approved a 6.9-mill bond issued in March 2012 to generate $551,235 a year to pay the district’s $9.6 million share. An additional 0.5-mill levy was approved for maintenance of the construction for 30 years, which will generate $79,954 a year.

“It’s been a long time coming. It feels good to be moving forward, to be able to get the work done,” Dohar said.

The project also will provide technology updates, he noted.

“It really is very exciting. We received a construction update last week and everything is going well. Everything is on schedule. We’re moving forward and we’re on our way,” said Tracey Thomas, school board president.