Commission offers $6.2M to Firelands

A $6.2 million offer is being waved at the Firelands Schools by state officials to help raise a new sixth-through-12th grade building on Vermilion Road.

All local voters have to do is put up $26.6 million of their own cash first.

That will mean going on the ballot this November with a bond issue, said Firelands board of education president Jane Battig.

“It’s about the kids. I hate to say it, but our South Amherst (middle school) building is literally falling down. We’ve done such a great job of keeping it looking nice but the infrastructure is falling away,” she said.

Where academics are concerned, Firelands has risen close to the top in Lorain County along with Amherst, Avon, and Avon Lake.

Battig said teachers have done their job and now “it’s time to give them a modern building to work in.”

State Rep. Dan Ramos (D-Lorain) announced Thursday that the Ohio School Facilities Commission approved construction funding.

“Creating a modern learning environment is incredibly important in allowing our students to learn and compete in the modern economy,” he said. “It is important to prioritize projects that improve opportunities for the next generation of leaders right here in Lorain County.”

“The pre-approval of these funds is great news for students and families in our community,” said State Sen. Gayle Manning (R-North Ridgeville). “Existing facilities are in need of replacement and a new building will save on costly operating and maintenance expenses associated with the two existing facilities.”

The state’s share amounts to 20 percent of the total construction budget.

To get that cash, Firelands has up to 13 months to pass a levy covering the rest of the project’s $33 million price tag.

After months of deliberation, a building advisory committee comprised of local residents asked the board of education to abandoned South Amherst Middle School and demolish at least a part of Firelands High.

The plan — should voters back it — is to construct a new school just to the north of the existing high school, said architect Steve Miller.

That would be phase one. A second building project could include construction of a kindergarten-through-fifth grade school next door.

The 6-12 building would require passage of a 5.99-mill levy this November, which would amount to an estimated $200 per year tax increase for every $100,000 worth of property district residents own.

Jason Hawk can be reached at 440-988-2801 or @EditorHawk on Twitter.