- Sycamore Junior High School
Board of Education Approves Master Facility Recommendation
The Sycamore Community Schools Board of Education has voted to move forward with a Master Facility option that will ensure the district’s facilities are future ready.
On April 17, the Board approved a plan that includes renovating and replacing some of the district’s aging buildings, as well as expand early childhood opportunities. The plan would maintain the district’s current grade configurations, replacing E.H. Greene Intermediate at Aldine Drive and Sycamore Junior High School at Cooper Road. Sycamore High School would undergo a $35 million renovation. Symmes Elementary, the district’s oldest elementary school, would be renovated and expanded to accommodate growth and expansion of early learning opportunities. The three remaining elementary schools would receive minimal updates.
“The Board of Education is excited about the approval of this resolution that if approved by voters will replace our oldest facilities in the district, expand early childhood education, and improve upon the strong academic foundation of Sycamore Community Schools,” said Paul Balent, Board president. “We are thankful for our community’s engagement through this process.”
The district will come to the community in November 2019 with a $127.5 million bond issue to fund the plan.
The approved recommendation is the result of an extensive, three-year process that included assessing facilities and gathering input from students, staff, families, and the community. A facilities assessment completed in 2016 and updated in 2018 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.
The district conducted also community engagement sessions in early 2018. Of the 1,389 participants, 72-percent believed E.H. Greene Intermediate should be replaced, 87-percent 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.
During the concept testing phase this winter, more than 900 participants were surveyed on their preferences for three different options. Two of the options would have changed grade configurations at the elementary and middle school levels.
“The community made it clear that the option to maintain our current configuration was the most preferred because they believe what we are doing is working,” said Frank Forsthoefel, superintendent. “But the results also clearly indicated a desire for more early childhood opportunities in our neighborhood elementary schools.”
In an effort to be responsive to the community’s preferences, the Sycamore Master Facility Steering Committee reevaluated classroom space at all four elementary schools to accommodate more preschool opportunities as well as the potential for full-day kindergarten in the future.
By adding classrooms to Symmes Elementary, and reconfiguring classrooms at Blue Ash Elementary, the district will be able to add four additional preschool sections and do so within the cost shared with the community. Sycamore’s preschool program is currently housed at Maple Dale Elementary, which has seen a recent increase in enrollment across all grades. The waitlist for next year’s preschool class is over 60 students.
“By moving preschool out of Maple Dale, we will be able to open up more classrooms to accommodate the growth we are seeing there, while also making our preschool program more accessible to our families,” said Chad Lewis, Director of Business and Student Operations. “Repurposing additional classrooms will also prepare us for a potential state-mandated full-day kindergarten requirement.”
The approved option also includes building a new athletic stadium at Sycamore High School, partially funded through private sources. Aviator Athletics currently utilize the aging Sycamore Stadium at Sycamore Junior High. Both facility assessments found the stadium in need of renovations and updates to address Americans with Disabilities Act and safety requirements, as well as bring the facility to the standard of many areas high school venues. The estimated cost is nearly $4 million. The estimated cost to build a new stadium located on the high school campus is $5 million.
“We don’t think that renovating the current stadium is the best investment but are sensitive to the community’s concern about the cost of a new one,” said Forsthoefel. “Our commitment is to construct a new stadium only if a minimum of $2.5 million in private funding can be secured to offset the taxpayer’s cost.”
If the minimum private funding is not achieved, the Board has committed that the $2.5 million included in the bond issue will be used for renovation of the current stadium at Sycamore Junior High school.
By utilizing a combination of public and private funding, the district will decrease the total bond issue amount to $127.5 million from $130 million initially shared with the community during concept testing. The cost to taxpayers will be an additional $84 annually per $100,000 in home market value over what they currently pay for the district’s facility bonds.
Sycamore’s residents currently pay 2 mills of property tax for bond issues approved in 1998 and 2010. Approval of this issue will increase the total millage paid for bonds to 4.4 mills for the next 30 years. The Board will vote on May 15 to place the issue on the ballot in November 2019. If 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.
“Our communities are so supportive of maintaining the highest quality schools. We believe that moving forward with these enhanced facilities, our current and future students will benefit and, as a result, will keep our schools and communities strong,” said Forsthoefel.
For more information on Sycamore’s Master Facility process, visit goav.es/masterfacilityplanning.