“We’re living on a prayer here,” said Mike Von Gunten, who hopes that prayer will be answered by voters.
The Firelands superintendent said his district’s future rides on the results of Issue 7, a 4.28-mill bond issue that if successful will fund $30 million in school construction.
The hard truth is that South Amherst Middle School is falling apart, he said.
If the bond issue fails, the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency will require Firelands to immediately spend an estimated $300,000 to replace the septic system at SAMS.
But if voters support the bond issue, the district will get a three-year pass while a 106,643-square-foot high school is built adjacent to the existing one on Vermilion Road. At the same time, the old high school would be converted to a middle school for grades 6-8.
An ancient and broken septic system is “just one of the many costs we’re right on the precipice with in a building that’s 108 years old,” Von Gunten said.
Located on Rt. 113, SAMS is built on five different levels. Some parts of the school are inaccessible to students who have disabilities. There are major electrical and plumbing issues. There are no sprinklers or smoke detectors. The building is heated by a steam boiler and hot water boiler, both which are well beyond their intended lifespans. And there are big security concerns.
Maintenance workers have done everything they can to keep the old middle school in working condition. Von Gunten said the problem isn’t upkeep, though — SAMS simply wasn’t built for 21st century classroom needs and is outdated and inefficient.
Levy attempts to address the problem have failed three times in recent years, with the no vote growing stronger with each election.
Von Gunten and company have ramped up phone and sign campaigns this time around and are seeing voter registration and requests for absentee ballots climb.
“There does seem to be much more enthusiasm this time and people understand the urgency of the matter, so I’m very optimistic. But it’s important that everyone vote this time,” he said.
Jason Hawk can be reached at 440-775-1611 or @EditorHawk on Twitter.