Leader Blues

Monday, February 19, 2007

TOP STORY >> Bringing down the school

BY HEATHER HARTSELL
Leader staff writer

As demolition is underway at what remained of Cabot Junior High North after the Aug. 10 fire that destroyed the school, district administrators are looking to the future for their building and rezoning options both at CJHN and in the district overall. Cabot Public Schools’ building and grounds committee met Thursday night and agreed a public meeting would be held in the near future to determine the best options for the district to consider based on growth and finance.

“We want the opportunity to hear what the community wants the school to do,” Dr. Frank Holman, superintendent, said. “We envision a large group meeting to discuss why we need to rezone, then break into groups to get the community’s answers on some issues,” he said. The district completed negotiations with Great American Insurance Company of Ohio, the district’s insurance company, and received a check for the final amount of $12,069,000, not $17 million as previously reported.
“We’ve gone through six months of frustration, but the check was air delivered to us this morning (Thursday) for the balance of the settlement, just under $4 million,” Holman said. The district had previously received a little over $7 million Holman said.

The settlement was split into four payments: $8 million for building replacement, $2 million for operating costs, $2.069 million for contents, and $10 thousand for personal effects. The actual cost to date the district has incurred for operating costs at CJHN is $2.14 million, which includes $171,838 for demolition and $577,536 in rent for the 30 portable buildings through May 2008. The actual cost to the district for the contents of the school was $2.3 million.

The district has three proposals prepared for Doug Eaton, director of the Division of Public School Academic Facilities and Transportation, that the district views as options for rebuilding CJHN with the help of state funds through the partnership or catastrophic program in which state funds provide 60 percent of costs for construction based on the wealth index, and the district provides the remaining 40 percent.

Proposal one calls for rebuilding at the same square footage as the original building, 101,900 square feet, with a waiver for state construction standards upgrade, to hold just over 1,000 students. The cost of construction would be almost $16 million with the district’s share being $6.3 million. Proposal two would rebuild the school to match the original spaces, but would upgrade to meet the current state space standards for 1,200 students at a total of 118,037 square feet. Total cost would be $18.5 million with the district paying $7.36 million.

The third proposal would rebuild CJHN to plan for growth meeting current state spacing codes for 1,500 students. The 162,914 square feet building would cost a total of $25.57 million; the district’s share would be $10.16 million. “We still have to see what the state will do with the catastrophic and what they will approve,” Holman said. “We don’t know how they will apply the $8 million from the insurance company,” he said, “they may say they’re going to take the $8 million before they do the 60/40.”

“There are still some unknowns, we haven’t gotten anything from catastrophic, not even one dime, so why even have it if its not going to help some schools, I think this qualifies for catastrophic, but we don’t know,” Holman said. “We’re looking at everything we can do as far as not obligating the district any additional money,” Holman said. Another option the district has thought about when building back Junior High North is to make a ninth- through twelfth-grade campus with ninth and tenth on the north (CJHN) and eleventh and twelfth on the south (the high school) with an underground walk-way connecting the two.

Holman also said the district wants to eliminate this summer the portable buildings that currently make up the Junior High North campus. The ninth-graders would go into the main building on the high school campus; the eight-graders would go into the buildings on the north of the high school campus, which currently house ninth-graders from CJHN; and the seventh-graders would remain at Middle School North during the 2007-2008 school year.

All of these options will be addressed during the public meeting held at a future date.