Landslide decision: Amherst will get a new school

By Jason Hawk -

The promise of a new school without a huge monthly tax hike convinced Amherst district voters on Tuesday to fund construction.

The commanding lead Issue 21 found — it passed 65.3 percent to 34.7 percent — surprised schools superintendent Steven Sayers, who had been anxious waiting for Election Day returns.

“Obviously it feels great,” he said, thanking both voters and campaign manager Sarah Kucbel. “This is an opportunity to provide our students with current, up-to-date environments… I’m just overwhelmed. It’s such a great feeling and I’m happy for our staff and our students and our community.”

The unofficial tally by the Lorain County Board of Elections showed 7,973 supporting the school system’s bond issue, which is a 12-year extension of the financing originally used to build Amherst Junior High. Opposing the measure were 4,244 voters.

Passage was the culmination of 18 months of work, during which the Amherst board of education hired a consulting firm to get its message out, formed a facilities advisory panel, and vetted various ideas for buildings.

Early plans were to ask voters for a PK-5 school, which would have meant asking voters to pay more each month. Surveys showed that plan didn’t have much backing, so the board downsized its plans to a PK-3 school and refinanced its debt.

Now Sayers and company need to plan an organizational meeting before the month’s end with the Ohio School Facilities Commission, putting together a time line for the project. That will be followed by jointly selecting an architect.

Next, the board plans to upgrade heating and cooling at Steele High School and Nord Middle School over the summer, demolish Harris Elementary, and ideally break ground on the new building next fall, said Sayers.

That means shuffling grades to Amherst’s remaining four schools during the construction phase, which will mean using more mobile classrooms for a year.

Once the new school opens, unofficial plans are to tear down Powers Elementary and the former Shupe Elementary. The latter will displace Great Lake Church, which has leased Shupe the past several years since its closure.

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

By Jason Hawk