Aurora considers new elementary or high school, with bond vote in 2024

Craddock Elementary School in Aurora, Ohio. Image via Google Maps

Aurora City School District will put a bond measure on the ballot in 2024, seeking to build a new school that could cost about $50 million or over $100 million, district officials said. 

The district plans to make a recommendation to the Aurora school board at its next meeting on June 19 after administrators have analyzed community surveys on whether to build a new elementary school or a new high school for the growing district.

Following two interviews, the board selected ThenDesign, a Willoughby architectural firm specializing in K-12 school buildings, to take charge of designing the new facility. 

The firm held an open house in May at which several of their employees presented the costs and some of the benefits of building a new high school or elementary school.

Each facility has a different preliminary projected cost, which is subject to change. The elementary school project is expected to cost $56,860,000.  

The high school would be larger, with a projected cost of $102,104,000. 

“Both plans provide new facilities for the district, and give the district room to grow over future years,” ThenDesign project manager Scott Alleman said. 

“This was prompted by a combination of an increase in the number of houses being built in Aurora, which is leading to an increase in our enrollment, along with the age of Craddock,” an elementary school which was built in 1911, Superintendent Mike Roberto said. 

Administrators including Roberto and Treasurer Bill Volosin presented information about the project at the open houses held in May. 

The district is conducting a survey to get residents’ opinions on the project to find out which new facility the community prefers. 

Roberto presented the counter-case of maintaining and restoring Craddock Elementary. He spoke of how this would be much more costly and less beneficial to the community given current enrollment projections. 

Volosin said the bond would reach its assumed maturity, or will be paid off, in 37 years. The bond would also be a fixed-sum levy, which means it would not be subject to change even if property values increase. 

There are three ways in which schools are funded through property taxes: operational levies, permanent improvement levies and bond issues.

As their names suggest, the operational levy provides funding for day-to-day expenditures of the school district, such as salaries and benefits, textbooks, utilities, and computer equipment. A permanent improvement levy funds small capital improvements. 

However, a bond issue helps fund building renovations or, in this case, a completely new school building.

Regardless of the plan that’s selected, the district will tear down Craddock Elementary, which has interior leaks, roof wear and structural wear. It’s also inadequate to serve modern educational needs, such as too few electrical outlets and tech space, officials said.

The elementary school contains all first- and second-grade students in the district with a total enrollment of 402 students, as of the 2022-23 school year. 

If Craddock is demolished and a new high school facility is built, the grade levels as well as the board office will have to move schools. 

Aurora houses preschoolers and kindergartners in Miller Elementary. Grades 3-5 are in Leighton Elementary, 6-8 are in Harmon Middle School, and students in 9-12 grade are at Aurora High school.

If the board decides to build a new elementary school building, they would likely relocate a student parking lot, and Miller would become a pre-K school and house the new board offices.

If they decide to build a new high school, middle school students would shift to the existing high school. Grades 3-5 would be in Harmon and grades K-2 in Leighton. 

In 2019, the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission provided the Aurora City School District with an enrollment projection upon request for this project. The commission is in charge of managing and supporting construction or renovation of any K-12 public schools throughout Ohio.

The projection states that in the next 10 years, by the 2029-30 school year, Aurora enrollment could increase by 12%, going from 2,963 to 3,332 K-12 grade students. 

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Paige Fisher
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