At its Dec. 12, 2022 meeting, the Lakota Board of Education approved Master Facilities Plan (MFP) option four. The plan was approved 4-1 vote, with board member Darbi Boddy opposing the motion.
The approved plan calls for 15 schools in all, including two new high schools and shifting the current Lakota East and Lakota West to middle schools. The grade-band configuration includes:
- One standalone preschool building;
- 10 kindergarten-fifth grade schools;
- Two sixth-eighth grade middle schools; and
- Two ninth-twelfth grade high schools.
While the grade bands and tentative buildings associated with the plan have now been approved by the Board, President Lynda O’Connor noted that the facilities committee has much work to do. “There’s still a tremendous amount of work to do, but this is the first step.”
As this is a long-term project, the Board has not determined when it would ask its taxpayers to support a bond issue, nor when implementation of the plan would begin. At the Dec. 5 facilities committee meeting, it was also noted that attrition is the driving factor for any potential decreases in staffing associated with the plan.
“Based on the work we’ve put into this, (this plan) is a very, very nice happy medium (and is) fiscally responsible for putting in new programs for the kids,” said Treasurer/CFO Adam Zink. He also noted that this option has about $3 million more in estimated operational savings over option three. Additionally, this plan gives the district the ability to apply for the Expedited Local Partnership Program (ELPP) through the Ohio Facilities Construction Committee (OFCC), which could result in up to approximately $145 million in partial funding from the State and help minimize the financial impact on taxpayers.
With an estimated total cost of $502 million, O’Connor cautioned the Board and community that she would like to see the price tag lowered as discussions take place about how the facilities can best meet the educational needs of the district’s nearly 17,500 students. O’Connor told the Board that she would like to bring in experts, including those in the community with construction experience, that can help make suggestions that could lower the cost of the plan.
“The real work begins as soon as we take this vote,” O’Connor said. “That’s to take apart the plan, begin to put in the details: what do we want the buildings to look like, what items are on the educational horizon that we need to be considering in our plans, what trends in education, what are some curriculum options now that we can’t offer because of our (current) setup.”
Work on the MFP has been stopped twice since it began in 2019 due to the pandemic. The full Board joined the committee in January and narrowed the options to four in the spring. Throughout the summer and fall, the district has engaged its stakeholders to gather feedback about the options, and will continue to do so as the focus shifts to building out the details of the plan. “There’s still a tremendous opportunity for community engagement and input on this,” O’Connor said.