Steering committee presents recommendation for facility upgrades, revised grade groupings

by Laura Bednar

The Nordonia Hills City Schools, in partnership with consultant Cooperative Strategies, created a steering committee of more than 30 community members to determine the future of school facilities. After several months of meetings and collecting online surveys, Scott Leopold from Cooperative Strategies presented findings to the board of education.

He said the steering committee held five meetings and two community dialogues, in which input was sought from residents outside the committee on the configuration of schools, building renovations and the grouping of grade levels.

An “educational futures conference” was held in September 2021 for people to give feedback on what schools would look like in the future and how the facilities support or hinder that portrait. Leopold said 75 people attended, and there were 20 online survey responses.

A community dialogue on educational framework was held in November 2021, and Leopold said 17 non-committee members came to the meeting and he received 815 online survey responses. He said the overwhelming response from the meeting was, “Doing nothing is not an option.”

There was community support for reducing the number of school buildings from six to three.

The second community meeting in February focused on the buildings themselves. “The total cost to renovate all facilities is $118 million,” Leopold said.

He added that when projections were adjusted for inflation and material costs at the time of actual building, the total was closer to $135 million.

“We are at the point with the buildings where it makes sense to start over,” Leopold said.

The debt capacity for the district is $150 million to $165 million. Leopold broke this down into millage rates for a ballot levy as 6.43 mills for $150 million and 7.07 mills for $165 million.

Grade-level groupings were broken down into four options. The first would have four buildings, with grades K-3, 4-6, 7-8 and 9-12 having their own space. The second also had four buildings but grouped them as two buildings for grades K-4, one for 5-8 and one for the high school students. The third had just three buildings with one for grades K-4, one for 5-8 and one for 9-12. The final option had three buildings that would house the following grade groups: K-3, 4-6 and 7-12.

Leopold said the consensus from those who attended the February meeting was option four, and the 1,000-plus residents who responded online liked option three. Leopold said the online respondents “didn’t like the concept of having a seventh-grader in the building with a 12th-grader.”

If the recommendation of three school buildings were to move forward, Leopold said the overall cost was $42 million for the K-4 building, $46.7 million for the 5-8 building and $67.3 million for the high school.

He said the 10-year operational savings would be $21 million, because there would be three fewer buildings. Superintendent Dr. Joe Clark told board members, “Within a few months we’ll have to make a decision.”

Class rank

Nordonia High School Principal Casey Wright addressed the board, asking that class ranks be removed from student transcripts.

He said students are concerned about taking honors classes to improve their GPA, which is factored in when calculating rank, and miss out on taking electives or art classes. “It causes anxiety,” Wright said.

The school would still calculate class rank but would remove it from transcripts. The rank would be available if a student needed it for a college or military application, among other things.

Wright said class rank only benefits the top 10% of students and puts pressure on the others.

“[Removing rank] is the one decision we can make as an organization to help the greatest majority of kids we have,” he said.

Telehealth appointments

The board approved a new policy regarding telehealth appointments. Telehealth is the receipt of health-related services over an electronic device. Said Clark, “It allows kids permission to visit their doctors via online while at school.”

The policy states that, “A room will be designated within each school building for purposes of conducting telehealth appointments.” ∞