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Join Us Feb. 27 for Final Master Facility Concept Testing

Sycamore Community Schools is ensuring that the district’s facilities are future ready.

The district has been engaging in conversations with students, families, staff, and community members about three Master Facility Plan options that include renovating and replacing some of its aging facilities.

“We began a very deliberate and strategic process three years ago by assessing our facilities and gathering input to better serve our students, families, community, and to continue our tradition of academic excellence for generations to come,” said Frank Forsthoefel, superintendent.

The district is holding a final concept testing session for the public on Wednesday, February 27 at Terwilliger Lodge on Deerfield Road at 6:30 p.m. During the session, participants will learn more about the process, the options being considered, and the impact the options could have on the community. At the end, there will be an opportunity to ask questions and provide feedback via an online survey.

In 2016, the district embarked on a multi-phase process that includes assessment, community engagement, and educational visioning. A Master Facility Steering Committee, comprised of district administrators, Board members, and architects from SHP Leading Design was established to guide the process.

A facilities assessment done in 2016 revealed the cost to renovate E.H. Greene Intermediate School and Sycamore Junior High School would be more than half of the cost to replace the aging buildings. A second assessment was done in 2018 with similar results.

“Anytime the cost to replace versus renovate is more than fifty-percent, we have to ask ourselves, ‘it this really a good investment of taxpayer dollars?’” said Chad Lewis, Director of Business Operations.

Industry standards for building replacement are typically 50 years. Sycamore High School was built in 1974, E.H. Greene Intermediate School was built in 1961, and parts of Sycamore Junior High date back as far as 1926. Modern industry standards also show that classrooms should be at least 900 square feet to accommodate innovative instruction. The average classroom size at Sycamore is closer to 750 square feet.

The district conducted community engagement sessions in early 2018. Of the 1,389 participants, 72-percent believed E.H. Greene Intermediate should be replaced, 87% believed Sycamore Junior High should be replaced, and 73-percent believed Sycamore High School should undergo renovations. The district also conducted educational visioning sessions with staff and community members to better understand the current shifts in education.

“We used the data collected during these sessions to guide our work,” said Lewis. “We considered grade configurations, academic programming, flexibility for future educational needs, as well as the impact to our operational costs.”

The three options all include minimal updates to the district’s four elementary schools, expanding Symmes Elementary to accommodate growth, renovating Sycamore High School, and building a new athletic stadium at the high school campus. The first option would maintain the district’s current grade configurations, replacing E.H. Greene Intermediate at Aldine Drive and Sycamore Junior High School at Cooper Road. The second option would build an early childhood learning center for preschool and kindergarten at the current E.H. Greene site on Aldine Drive. The four elementary schools would become grades 1-5, and a middle school for grades 6-8 would be built at the current junior high site on Cooper Road. The third option would build a school for grades 5-8 at the current junior high location. The existing E.H. Greene property would be available for future innovative uses for the district as well as community space.

“These decisions were based on what is best for kids, what is best for their learning, so we can deliver the kind of instruction that we need to prepare our kids to be college and career ready,” Forsthoefel said.

The district has held six public concept testing sessions since January. A session held on February 12 was live streamed on YouTube. Video from that session is available for viewing at goav.es/masterfacilityplanning. Viewers will have the opportunity to participate in an online survey through February 28. Additional information, including a list of frequently asked questions, are also available at the above website.

The Sycamore Board of Education will vote on a recommendation based on the feedback at their March 27 meeting. The district will come to the community for funding in November 2019. All three options have similar costs that would likely mean a $88 increase per $100,000 of property value annually.

If a bond issue is approved, the design process will take about a year to complete. Construction could begin as soon as 2021 and take up until 2023 to complete.

Sycamore Schools currently serves 5,500 students in Blue Ash, Montgomery, Symmes Township, and Sycamore Township. The district consists of four elementary schools grades kindergarten through fourth, an intermediate school serving grades 5-6, a junior high grades 7-8, and grades 9-12 high school.