(Originally published in the Kenton Times, October 4, 2021)
To the Editor –
We would like to begin by thanking the residents of Kenton for your interest in the proposed Middle/High School building that is being presented to voters on November 2nd. We would also like to say a heartfelt thank you to the Vote YES KCS Levy Committee for the time, effort, and tireless work that you have done to promote the benefits of this issue.
As early voting begins, please take a moment to read this letter and give this building issue your thoughtful consideration for the betterment of our children and our community. We have had the opportunity to speak with community members while at the Hardin County Fair, at Kenton High School Football games, and through our day of direct action on Sept. 29th as we knocked on doors and made phone calls. Many of you support our efforts to make the full use of almost $30 Million as presented by the Ohio Facilities Construction Committee (OFCC). It has been a pleasure to speak with the community about this issue, we appreciate your willingness to learn about the tremendous opportunity being provided to the Kenton City School District.
The proposal is to pass a 6.48 mill bond issue to co-fund the building of a new middle/high school. The bond issue would be for 37 years generating almost $35 Million to add to the $30M provided by OFCC. A total project cost of $65 Million is a sizeable amount of money, but we have developed a considerable Master Plan that will address many locally funded initiatives to help improve our facilities for many years to come.
The Master Plan was developed through many meetings involving school district staff, local leaders, and local community members in order to determine a long-term goal for both the building and the successful passage of a bond issue. The plan is forward thinking, accommodating the full scope of educational opportunities currently being provided by the district, as well as future considerations.
The new middle/high school building will be located north of the current facilities, near the recently built Kenton Elementary School on ground purchased in 1996. The location should allow for the creation of some efficiencies, including better bus routing and traffic flow, due to the proximity of both schools. An extension of Morningside Drive from its current dead end to Township Road 114 is included in this plan, which should facilitate these improvements.
While we are not able to provide detailed plans, a conceptual rendering is available for view on our website or social media, via our Facebook page. The Master Plan planning process helped us to identify opportunities to migrate classes currently offered at the former Northwood Elementary building. These programs are provided in part with the help of Ohio Hi-Point and provide invaluable training and career readiness options for our students. Presently, these students participating in allied health/nursing, manufacturing, and information technology career readiness programs have to be bussed to Northwood from Kenton High School. A new school will incorporate all of these programs (and potentially more) into one building, eliminating the need to bus any students. The results of this will allow for more students to take advantage of these programs that provide advanced placement into higher education programs or be near-ready to join the workforce immediately after graduation.
Intentional thought and consideration has been put into plans and ideas related to keeping and renovating the KMS Auditorium. As many know, the historic significance of this building is important to all, but the requirements and cost to renovate this space are great. Many studies were performed to arrive at an estimated probable cost of $9.8 Million dollars to renovate and maintain a portion of KMS, including the auditorium. Despite the desire to maintain an important historical site in Kenton, the space cannot be expanded, nor can it be fully brought to modern design requirements within budget, including ADA design.
A brand new, state-of-the-art Performing Arts Center (PAC) could be built at a cost of $5.5 Million dollars. The new PAC would have the same seating capacity (800) as well as increased storage, dressing rooms, a large venue projector, sound system, and lighting package. As you can see, the district will save approximately $4.3 Million dollars by building a new PAC. Historic elements found in the current auditorium and exterior could be preserved and integrated into the new PAC providing the historical link between the buildings.
In our planning process, we have also addressed the current Kenton High School. There are several reasons that renovation of the current facilities is not an option for the Kenton City School district. In order to have the state as a partner and receive state funds, the district has to build new facilities. The state uses a two-thirds or 66% rule when it evaluates school buildings, through a “needs assessment”. If the cost to renovate the building is more than two-thirds of what it would cost to build a new building, the state would not fund renovation, but instead require building a new facility. Our buildings were over two-thirds the cost to renovate as determined by OFCC needs assessment.
Because of the assessment and requirement to build new, Kenton High School will only be partially demolished, keeping the “A” building section (main entrance, gymnasium, library, cafeteria, locker rooms, band/choir rooms, etc.) and would be renovated to a level that meets ADA requirements, updates mechanical (HVAC) needs, and other modern needs to meet a change of use from educational to administrative use for district staff and board offices. In addition, the gymnasium would be preserved and improved to facilitate year-round use.
While the commitment is great and the request is demanding for many of our families, we have found that almost 88% of Kenton residents will pay less than $1 per day or about $30 per month in additional taxes based on data provided by the Hardin County Auditor. This would effectively be doubled without the state funding if Kenton were to have to pay for this on our own. We must take advantage of this opportunity!
In closing, this decision will have a profound impact on the future of Kenton! It is important not only for current and future students, but it is also important for the economic development of the City of Kenton. New public school facilities dramatically impact the attraction and retention of commercial and personal businesses! Our success will lead to multi-generational impact and the cost is manageable. If not now, when? If not us, who? Please fully consider this bond issue and VOTE YES KCS! For the future. For us all!
Brian Sprang and Linda Hensel
Co-chairs — Vote Yes KCS Levy Committee