Shergalis Says Plan C is the Best Option For the District
CH-UH Business Services Director Steve Shergalis presented more facilities master plan options to board members, but said Plan C is still his favorite.
Cleveland Heights-University Heights School Board members heard three more options for the proposed facilities master plan at a special meeting Thursday, May 24.
But Steve Shergalis, business services director, maintains that Plan C would be best for the district.
He provided the board with more information after members requested specifics on what it would cost to maintain Gearity Professional Development School or keep a primary school in University Heights and to issue two bonds instead of one.
The new ideas, plans C-1, C-2 and C-3, are outlined here in an article published May 29. A combination of two bond issues, anticipated funding from the Ohio School Facilities Commission and certificates of participation would pay for the plan.
Shergalis explained why he would choose Plan C out of all of the ideas presented.
“Plan C has the lowest overall budget projection, saves the most operating costs, has the lowest cost to taxpayers, can be completed in less time, and best supports the district’s educational program and vision,” he said in an email.
Plan C’s cost projection, if the district renovates Cleveland Heights High School first, is $206 million. Budget estimates for Plans C-1 through C-3 range from $214 to $230 million.
If the district issues two bonds, as proposed in the three new plans, construction will be delayed by about four years and the project won’t be complete until 2029 instead of 2019 or 2022 as originally proposed.
Another issue is escalation costs — the longer the project is stalled, the more the projected inflation of supplies, materials and labor increases, Shergalis said at the meeting.
"Those could multiply more frequently," said Superintendent Doug Heuer during the meeting.
Heuer added that if the high school is completed first, the educational improvements officials believe this plan will facilitate will be further delayed.
"Front loading gets you better results than making the changes at the end of the line," Heuer said. "We'll have almost a generation and a half of students going through the district before we (achieve a significant educational impact.)"
Board member Kal Zucker said he still worries about the cost, but he knows building updates are necessary.
"I have some concerns about what we're asking the community to bear, but I do believe in the notion that we need new facilities for our kids — we absolutely do," he said.
But he added that he wishes he could see drawings or more concrete plans of the building renovation proposals before approving a specific master plan idea.
"I can tell you, as a board member, it's extremely difficult without actually seeing something," he said.
School board member Nancy Peppler asked Shergalis if he could provide an itemized list of some of the construction and renovation costs.
"The numbers are still frightening for me," Peppler said.
Shergalis said he would. He said he challenged the team of architects to propose plans at a reasonable, affordable rate, but that he doesn't want to "do this cheaply."
"We didn't want to make the mistakes of the past where they simply took buildings and tacked stuff on," Shergalis said.
Zucker said for him, the most important thing is what students are learning inside of the school walls.
We have "no real data on the educational benefit" of the plans, Zucker said.
Heuer said after the meeting that many of the lighting, sound and climate control improvements will enhance the quality of education because students won't be distracted by poor facilities.
"Research is very clear that all of those make a significant contribution to learning," Heuer said.
Board member Ron Register said it's crucial that once the board makes a decision, they figure out how to "sell this to the community."
"People are going to go for this or not go for this based on how we lay it out," Register said.
Board members discussed questions they'd like to include on a survey that will be distributed soon to find out what the community wants. Two bonds or one? Should the district keep a primary school in University Heights? Would you support this if the high school was renovated first?
"I think we need a plan that the community embraces, and I don't know that we've answered that yet," Heuer said.
To see all of Cleveland Heights Patch's coverage of the CH-UH Facilities Master Plan proposals and process, click here.
Which plan would you support? Tell us in the comments.