Sunday, October 9, 2011

DHS Plan Years in the Making -- Guest commentary: Jennifer Jones

Editor's note: I defer to Jennifer Jones, who originally wrote this for the Times-Reporter. It's not a conspiracy, folks. Dover needs a new high school. Hopefully, the T-R will see that and ultimately endorse the initiative. -- DF
Jennifer Jones's Note:  This is the first in a series of editorials addressing the Dover City Schools’ proposal for a new high school. The purpose is to provide a historical perspective of how the Board of Education has arrived at its decision.  The number one objective is to create an informed, educated citizenry so that this all-important decision is based on factual information and an understanding of this project’s history. Additional information can be found at

On Nov. 8, voters in the Dover City School District will make a choice. Before them is a proposal for a new high school, funded through a 33-year bond issue of 6.4 mills and a ½ mill maintenance levy for a combined total of 6.9 mills. 

It is important for the voters to know that the decision to present this choice to the community was not made without close consideration of the conditions at Dover High School; in truth, this process began nearly 12 years ago—not 6 months ago, as many have been led to believe.  The conversation about the future of Dover schools began in 2000 with a group of community members, parents, teachers, and administrators focused on curriculum, instruction, facilities, organization, and school/community relations within the district.

In 2001, upon the recommendation of the community group, the Ohio Schools Facilities Commission (OSFC), along with an unbiased team of architects, engineers, and building designers, was contacted to perform an assessment of Dover’s facilities and to offer input on the buildings’ current state.
In 2002, the OSFC’s proposed plan was vast and unlikely a solution that Dover taxpayers would accept.  This OSFC plan included multiple changes within the district including the demolition of Dover High School.   

Therefore, the Board decided unanimously to present taxpayers a less complex, less costly alternative focusing primarily on the high school.  Thus, in 2002, a 4.8 mill 5-year Permanent Improvement levy that would have generated $5.3 million over 5 years was presented to the taxpayers. 

That levy would have allowed for construction of a 3-story addition as well as a renovation to the 5th Street Wing.  Also included were ongoing improvements that would have been made to boilers at both East and South Elementaries.  This option, which would have cost $147 per year for a homeowner whose home was appraised at $100,000, was defeated by 654 votes.

Knowing the necessity of this levy, the Board in May 2003 again placed the exact same levy before the taxpayers.  It, too, was defeated, this time suffering a loss by 69 votes.  At that time, due to voters’ reluctance to support any renovations to the high school (and coinciding sentiment to “wait for state funding”), the District chose not to pursue the renovation and addition. 

 Instead, an operating levy was placed on the ballot that included the renovation of the boilers at East and South Elementaries—that levy passed in November 2003. 

In the years since 2003, the stability and educational viability of the high school has continued to be debated. Finally, in 2010, the OSFC strongly recommended that the district apply to the Exceptional Needs Program, placing schools with immediate needs to the top of the school funding list.  After five public forum meetings to discuss the building’s condition and with the support of involved community members, the district applied and in May 2011 received notification that Dover High School was ranked #1 in “exceptional needs”; in short, the physical condition of the high school was recognized as one of the worst in Ohio.
Because the OSFC Exceptional Needs Program will not fund a project if the projected cost of renovation is at or exceeds 2/3 of the cost of new construction, the district was at a crossroads:  Pay for its own renovation without any state assistance or pursue the construction of a new high school with the state paying $9.5 million. Through a series of public forums and input from staff and the community, the Board of Education determined that accepting the OFSC’s offer of $9.5 million toward the construction of a new high school was the most responsible use of taxpayer money.  When that initiative was approved by the Board, the campaign for a new Dover High School began. 
The OSFC constructs new schools based on a formula determined by student enrollment without regard to classroom or extracurricular programming.  In Dover’s situation, enrollment is steadily increasing, and its curriculum exceeds the state minimums. As a result, the OSFC’s minimum requirements were considerably less than what Dover High School currently offers. Thus, the District faced yet another crossroad:  Construct a building that offers less than we have today or build for the needs and expectations of this community?  Once again the District turned to the taxpayers for guidance.  Public meetings continued through Spring 2011 where options were thoroughly discussed.  This group ultimately decided that if the school was going to go forward into the 21st Century, there was no reason to build a school that would fail to meet Dover’s needs in the present or future.

Dover’s taxpayers should recognize that the decision to ask the community to support the construction of a new high school is not spur-of-the-moment.  Rather, it is one that has involved vast input from area citizens, unbiased studies, and economic considerations over a 12-year period.  A decision of this magnitude deserves thorough investigation and study.  The community can be assured that this issue has received due diligence.   

On Nov. 8, we ask voters to vote Yes on Issue 15 and appreciate that it is our school, and it is our choice as to what our educational future holds.

*2000:  Community group begins study of Dover High School
*2001:  Ohio School Facilities Commission (OSFC) conducts assessment
*2002:  OSFC proposes plan for district building renovation
*2002:  Dover Board of Education determines OSFC plan would not be acceptable to taxpayers
*2002:  Levy request for renovation to DHS 5th Street Wing and a 3-story addition is rejected
*2003:  Second levy request for renovation and addition is rejected
*2008    OSFC conducts assessment of Dover High School
*2009:  Community contractors are involved in discussions for high school improvement
*2009:  MKC Associates (area architectural firm) provides a facility improvement review
*2010:  OSFC determines that the high school needs replaced
*2011:  Board of Education conducts six months of communication with staff and community
*2011:  Board of Education is rated by the OSFC “Exceptional Needs Program” as the building most in    
                need of replacement in Ohio
*November 2011:  Voters will make a choice regarding a new Dover High School

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