Levy for new school: 'This is our time'
Early voting has started for the election. The CTC issue is the lone county-wide one on the ballot seeking new money. The permanent improvement levy is estimated to generate $4,469,000 annually, according to the Clark County Auditor’s Office. It would be $49 a year, or about $4 a month, for a property valued at $100,000.
Superintendent Michelle Patrick said putting the levy on now is to take advantage of the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission’s (OFCC) co-funding, “given the fact that they typically only do one Joint Vocational School District like ours a year,” she said, “and this is our time.”
The OFCC provides a portion of state funding for school construction projects that meet its requirements. Approval for the project was given on Aug. 8, and CTC has 13 months, until September 2024, to come up with its share of the money in order to be granted the state’s portion.
CTC would replace its seven existing buildings at 1901 Selma Road with a single, up-to-date facility that supporters say addresses the county’s growing demand for students and workforce needs. This includes additional classroom facilities, equipment, furnishings and site improvements needed for additional enrollment.
The campus is roughly 60 years old, among the oldest in the state, levy supporters said.
The total cost of the entire project is expected to be $89,528,662. The total includes the state’s contribution of 62%, or about $38.7 million, and CTC’s share of about 38%, or $24.5 million, for the base part of the new building. The levy would raise an additional $26.2 million for items CTC identified as a need, bringing its total to about $50.7 million, including ongoing maintenance funds.
Students turned away
The current campus is a little more than 182,000 square feet, and a new facility could add 29,000 square feet, giving them closer to 210,000 square feet. The school currently has 779 students, which Patrick said they “feel pretty full at that amount.”
“With that same square foot now, we’re currently turning away students,” she said. “We want to be able to be more flexible and fluid, we need to be able to maximize it, so our design will need to reflect that forward future look.”
That additional space is the reason CTC is seeking the additional money. Patrick said: “So that additional money beyond our 38% is to add that additional space for new programming and to not turn away as many students per year.”
Between 2013 and 2023, the school turned away more than 700 students, including 150 for the current school year.;
Patrick said a “large, heavy lift” of this project is going to bring their academic and career tech related classrooms up to size, which are not to spec, according to the Ohio school design manual. Their average classroom is about 550 square feet, and the manual calls for them to be 900 square feet, plus or minus 10%.
“(These are) things we need to have for today’s student and today’s day and age,” she said. “A lot of our students go off to other schools for things like career tech student organizations. We want to be able to have guests and features where all of our kids can come and see that at one time. We currently don’t have a space that allows that to happen.”
The new facility would be built on the current property, south of the administrative building. Patrick said it will be far enough away from the existing structures that it wouldn’t interrupt school while it’s being built.
As for the old buildings, Patrick said the current plan is demolish them, which is a part of the cost of the project.
The OFCC process started in 2017 when Patrick asked for a review of the assessment last completed in 2005. In late 2022, CTC had moved to the top of the OFCC’s list for school facilities co-funding from the state.
The OFCC’s assessment estimated renovation costs to be more than $51 million and the cost to build a new facility, with similar square footage, at $66 million. Since the cost to renovate is 77% of the cost to replace with a new facility, which exceeds the OFCC’s two-thirds rule, they recommended building new and will provide matching funds.
Jamie Callan, CTC board president, said CTC had to pull a campaign together. They asked for help from the project developers and architects to see what was possible. They then got help from several officials from Springfield and Clark County who have been involved in previous levies for other city or school-related things to help give them some direction on the levy, as well as hired an outside firm to tell them the best way to spend the campaign funds.
CTC had about $5,000 left over from their previous levy campaign in 2001 that they had available for this project and since raised about $5,000 more, but hope to raise $15,000 “worth of support.”
“We went through and tried to determine what was the best way to spend those funds, so (the consultant) kind of guided us through that,” he said. The plan includes palm cards and post office cards, he said, plus, “trying to identify voters that would be supportive of the whole campaign and trying to get them aware of what’s going on ... and Michelle has been speaking at a variety of functions, trying to bring it to the public’s attention.”
Callan summarized how supporters have explained why the project is needed, including: - the community is struggling to find skilled workers for companies that are looking for them; - the buildings are not only deteriorating, but they can’t meet the needs of all the students that want to go to CTC, especially with their undersized classrooms that don’t meet state guidelines; and - energy efficiencies and improved security related to multiple buildings versus just one building;.
‘At a disadvantage’
The CTC has a facilities committee that visited other career tech centers, which made it “quite clear” the Springfield-Clark CTC was “in need of an overhaul.” Chris Williams, CTC board member and Springfield City School District board president, said the CTC is the oldest JVSD in the state. “Our students are at a disadvantage in comparison to their peers in other districts. We’ve stretched our facilities as far as they will allow us,” said Williams. “We owe it to the students within Clark County to give them a competitive advantage as they enter into the workforce, post graduation.”
After touring the current campus, Williams said he quickly realized the school was outdated and undersized. He said he joined the facilities committee because he felt an obligation to “be a part of bringing new life and the best experience possible” for the students and instructors.
The OFCC has never co-funded a JVSD as a new build and has only ever done renovations or upgrades, which Patrick said makes this an “amazing opportunity for this community.”
“We’ve been serving this community out of this building for almost 60 years and producing quality students who have given back to the economy, and the new space would allow us to project another 60 years,” she said. “T... A new space primes us to be ready for the evolution in programs in this community and workforce development.”
Callan, who is also the CFO at Valco Industries, pointed out Valco hires many CTC students as welders who come with the skills necessary to help meet the company’s obligations to customers, and thinks there are many businesses in Springfield that feel the same way.
If the levy doesn’t pass, Callan said they would consider what to do for the next election. However, he said the $49 a year for a $100,000 house is “not very significant.”
“I think the argument is the value to the community exceeds the cost here,” he said. “I know there’s some cost to this, but I really think it’s a win-win. It’s a win for the CTC, it’s a win for the CTC students, and it’s also a win for the community because of what the CTC provides.”
Nearby counties have nearly new schools Nearby counties have new or renovated career tech schools, including Greene, Montgomery and Butler counties.
The Greene County Career Center opened a new $70 million facility in 2020 that is the length of three football fields, and includes a large, two-story “Take Flight Lab,” a hangar, and more labs and classroom space. Voters approved a 20-year, 1.03-mill tax to help pay for the new facility.
The Miami Valley Career Tech Center began renovation and expansion construction in 2019 for a $158 million project that covers 600,000-square-feet. It includes more space, equipment and technology, and safety and security. The project is 93% complete as of this month. It was covered by $28 million from the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission and property tax funds from a 2017 bond issue approved by voters.
Butler Tech, one of the state’s largest career schools, has four high school campuses — the Bioscience Center in West Chester, the D. Russel Lee campus and School of the Arts in Fairfield Twp. and the Natural Science Center in Monroe — and two adult education campuses — the LeSourdsville campus and Public Safety Education Complex in Liberty Twp.
In 2021, the Natural Science Center converted a 72-acre farm for $12.5 million to upgrade learning spaces; and in 2017, they bought 36-acres of the former Americana Amusement Park site for new campuses in Monroe for $2.75 million, which was the second newest school opened since 2015 when the Bioscience Center began operations in West Chester Twp.