BY KAREN GERHARDINGER | MIRROR REPORTER — Since 1932, the brick building on Texas Street has been a hub of education for Whitehouse students – first as a K-12, then as an elementary school. When Anthony Wayne Local Schools administrators began working with SSOE Group and Stantec architects and engineers to design a new Whitehouse Primary School building, plans initially included keeping the 86-year-old building for other uses. But on January 8, Superintendent Dr. Jim Fritz and Director of Operations Matt Dick announced to both the Board of Education and Whitehouse’s Planning Commission that the school would need to be demolished following the completion of the new facility. “The site is tight. The architect told us that early on,” Dick said. “It’s like a city site for an urban school. In the end, two large buildings on one small site are not going to work if we’re going to have a building that works for the kids.” Demolishing the building will provide enough space on the 10.5-acre property for adequate parking and driveways for safe student delivery and pickup, and for the two required storm water detention ponds to handle building runoff, Dick said. Parking has been an issue at all three elementary schools, especially during large events, such as musicals or events like Muffins for Moms and Donuts for Dads, Dick said. Plans call for a one-story school with 37 classrooms, nine offices and a flexible commons area that can seat up to 420. The new school will be built northwest of the existing building, which will remain open until construction is complete – by December 2019 or later. Once demolished, the space occupied by the current school will be used for a bus loop for student pickup and drop-off; a small parking area; a storm water detention pond and a walking path. When Whitehouse School first opened in 1932, it served students in K-12 until the Anthony Wayne Local School District was formed in 1952. Since then, it has served as an elementary school, utilizing the original building and wings added in 1935 and 1967. News of the planned demolition disappointed some Whitehouse natives, who reacted to Whitehouse Village Council member Rebecca Conklin Kleiboemer’s post on the Facebook page “You Know You’re From Whitehouse.” “It makes me sad to hear that the old building will be torn down,” said Heather McGannon. Others asked whether the building could be declared historical and used for housing or a community center, like the old Monclova School. That’s not far off from a vision that Whitehouse administrator Jordan Daugherty had shared with council and the superintendent over a year ago. A 2009 survey of residents showed a desire for a civic center where residents could gather, he said. So he floated the idea to the school district about keeping the building to house village offices, a senior center, open spaces and community organizations like the Whitehouse Historical Society and Whitehouse Library. “I love the idea of the civic center. I think it has a lot of merit and I’m going to continue looking at options. This experience has sparked major interest in the whole concept,” Daugherty said. “But even while dreaming of a civic center, the priority was to keep the school there. I’m thankful the school board plans to build their primary school campus there. And it’s a superb, well-thought-out plan, especially for the footprint.” Daugherty said he understands the challenges that the architects and engineers at faced while designing for the odd-shaped site, which works around four homes on Texas Street. Every effort will be made to buffer those homes with landscaping and adjust lighting in order to be good neighbors, said Assistant Superintendent Kevin Herman. Last year, the district purchased and razed a home at 6408 Texas St. to make way for a roadway to the new building. This will be part of a U-shaped loop in front of the new school. This should alleviate some of the traffic woes on surrounding streets, Dick told the Planning Commission. The district’s long-term goal is to keep elementary schools at a maximum of 500 students and add a fourth building in the future when it’s needed. “We don’t want to make a large school now just in case,” Herman said. When completed, the new school will allow area for reflecting the history of the old building, such as the Whitehouse School limestone piece, or the W from above the old stage. The photographs of the graduating classes from the K-12 school – framed and donated by the Whitehouse Historical Society – will also be on display. The new building has an estimated cost of $16 million, paid for out of a 2.38-mill bond issue that passed in November 2016. That bond raises $44.2 million to pay for $5 million in capital improvements, $10.2 million in renovations and $29 million in new construction. The district’s construction project also includes: • This summer, construction will begin on a new parking and driveway plan in the front of the Finzel Road campus buildings, and also replacing some areas of older asphalt. The north driveway and north student parking lot will be repaved in the summer of 2019. This summer, areas of the parking lot near the baseball field will be disrupted as portions of the storm and sanitary sewer lines are replaced, in preparation for a new high school auxiliary gym and cafeteria addition. • The bid opening for a new operations building off Centerville Street is set for January 18. The building should be completed by September 1. • Waterville’s Planning Commission is to review plans for an addition for new classrooms; parking lot and traffic improvements; a secured entryway and offices for Waterville Primary. • Monclova Township trustees will review plans for a new office space, classroom renovations and parking and traffic improvements at Monclova Primary. • Within the next few months, the district will present Whitehouse Planning Commission with plans for new and renovated office spaces and secured entryways for the middle school and junior high, with possible completion before the beginning of the next school year. The junior high plans also call for media center and classroom renovations. • At the high school, plans call for a new high school office and secured entryway; auxilary gym repurposing into multi-use spaces; a new auxiliary gym construction; cafeteria expansion; and classroom renovations. The current study hall will be converted into classrooms, and possibly ready by the end of this summer. Bids for the rest of the projects will be completed in the summer or fall of 2019. • The main water line for the Finzel Road campus will be replaced, and transformers at the three elementary schools will be replaced, saving the district $40,000 a year after three years. • Two athletic practice fields and parking added at the Central Administration Office property on Bucher Road. This project is being funded by permanent improvement funds, not the bond issue. The fields should be ready for use in 2019. Estimated cost is $361,000.
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