February levy proposes new Ravenna high school

Adria Barbour

Ravenna residents will again vote whether to build a new high school this February. The only difference is this time, the state of Ohio has agreed to pay more than half the cost of the building if the levy passes.

This levy is a combination bond issue and permanent improvements levy, said Tim Calfee, superintendent of Ravenna City School District.

People would buy bonds, and the money they paid in taxes would cover the cost of the bonds. The bond issue is for 2.85 mills and would raise $16.1 million.

The improvement levy will be for 1.5 mills and will replace a present improvement levy that expired in December 2005. This money will be used to make permanent improvements, such as adding windows or fixing a roof. It cannot be used for paying salaries.

Calfee said although these are two separate issues, they will be voted on at one time.

“If we can pass the levy, we will get the money right away,” said Joan Seman, member of the Board of Education. The money has already been appropriated and is in an account to be used for the high school.

If the levy passes, the school will be built within the next three years. The planning will take one year, and construction will take two years.

The high school would be next to the athletic complex on North Chestnut Street. There will be larger classrooms, modern science labs and computer technology. The new school will also have an auditorium and an auxiliary gym the whole community could use.

Two years ago, the Ravenna School District applied for the Exceptional Needs Program, a program to renovate and build schools offered through the state, Calfee said.

The state sent a team of architects and engineers to the school to do an evaluation. They came to the conclusion that the school should be replaced because it would cost too much to renovate.

Through the Exceptional Needs Program, the state will contribute $13.6 million of the total cost of the new school, which would cost approximately $26 million. To receive the money, Ravenna must pass a bond issue for the local share of $12.1 million by June 30.

Seman said she is aware that some believe a new school is unnecessary, and this is why the three previous levies have failed. However, the current school is inadequate to deal with the current generation of students.

“(The school) is a long-time-coming opportunity because of the mistakes made in the past,” said Donald Tarver, a resident of Ravenna.

Tarver said years have passed and the district never did anything with the money gained from the levies that have passed before. So the state pressured them, and they built a stadium to keep the residents quiet about where the levy money was going.

The district could have built a high school and a lot more with the levy money already collected, Tarver said.

“They should have built a school over 25 yeas ago,” Tarver said. “Now we (the taxpayers) are being bullied into paying for this school.”

Seman said she doesn’t know why the State of Ohio doesn’t look at other states to find a better way of school funding.

“We can’t keep going back to the voters,” she said.

Tarver said he would vote in favor of the levy because his children attend school there.

“I’ll pay, but I’m reluctant,” he said.

The cafeteria is too small, Seman said. Even though the school has multiple lunch times, it can’t service the students. Students have gotten into fights over seats in the cafeteria.

“A student may get up to go get ketchup and when they come back, their seat is gone,” Seman said.

The boilers are also old. One broke down and the school had to have the tubes serviced and replacement parts sent for.

“If the boiler had broken down in December, the other boiler would not have been able to heat the building,” Seman said. “Some rooms are ungodly hot and some are freezing.”

The electrical outlets in the building also need to be serviced.

Seman said they are getting new computers and technology, and they are trying to bring the science labs up-to-date.

But the electrical outlets are inadequate to power it all. She said it is hard to get electrical wires through the building because the building is very solid, and it is tough to run the wires through walls and along ceilings.

Also, the building is not fully handicap-accessible. Seman said there are elevators and ramps, but if a fire were to occur, there would be a problem getting the handicapped students out. This new high school would alleviate all those structural problems.

“The old school won’t be torn down,” she said. “This is not our goal.”

The school will still be used during the transitional period, which will be another seven to eight years.

Patsy Artz, executive director of the Ravenna Area Chamber of Commerce, said the new high school would be very beneficial for the community.

“The Ravenna Chamber of Commerce feels if you have a good school it makes for a good business area,” Artz said. “Big companies look at schools because workers will want to move to a certain area if the schools are good.”

Contact public affairs reporter Adria Barbour at [email protected]