Mason Schools projects: What to know about renovation, expansion

District won’t return to ballot box for $38.5 million project.

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How to go

What: The Mason City School District is hosting Town Hall meetings to discuss the district's facility mater plan, finances and school advocacy efforts.

When and where (three events): 10-11:30 a.m. Wednesday, March 15, Mason Intermediate School, 6307 Mason-Montgomery Road in Mason.

6:30-8 p.m. Wednesday, March 15, Mason High School Large Commons, 6100 Mason-Montgomery Road in Mason.

Twitter Town Hall meeting from 12:30-1:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 15. Tweet @masonschools.

This spring the Mason City School District will move forward with an expansion and renovation project that has been in the works since 2014.

By leveraging money from the Ohio School Facilities Commission’s Local Partnership program, Mason will add nearly 17,000 square feet to Mason Early Childhood Center (MECC) and renovate Mason Middle School.

“While we have always known our number would come up, we were surprised when OSFC told us we needed to move forward with our plan this spring or risk losing the state funding,” said Superintendent Gail Kist-Kline. “Thankfully, our plan has not materially changed since we developed it in 2014, and we are on track to begin construction this summer, with the hopes of having all of the district’s preschool through second-graders attending MECC in fall of 2018.”

The state’s portion, approximately $32.5 million, is the accumulated credit the district received from participating in the OSFC program and earning 25 cents on every $1 spent to build the new Mason High School and its addition, the addition to Mason Intermediate School and MECC. The local share of about $6 million will be paid from the district’s capital improvement fund. The total estimated budget is $38.5 million.

According to the facilities plan, the district will reduce its footprint to four schools. MECC will serve students in grades PK-2, and Mason Intermediate School will serve students in grades 3-6. Seventh and eighth grades will remain at Mason Middle School, and grades 9-12 will remain at Mason High School.

Officials estimate that closing Western Row Elementary School will save $500,000 annually in operating costs. Renovating the building to OSFC standards would cost approximately $14 million. The school currently serves a third of the district’s second graders and all of Mason’s third graders.

By shuttering Western Row, the plan eliminates splitting grades and lessens the number of transitions students make, while providing flexibility to potentially meet the needs of students for the next 50 years.

“We aren’t building new schools and won’t ask voters to approve a bond levy. Instead, we’re now ready to ‘cash in our coupon’ so that we can renovate aging schools like Mason Middle School and capture operational savings by closing Western Row Elementary. This plan will ensure that all of our children benefit from safe, technology-ready, high-quality learning environments for many years to come,” said Kist-Kline.

Under the proposed plan, an addition at MECC will include 11 classrooms, an expanded cafeteria, extended gym space, additional offices and an additional multi-purpose room — for a total cost of about $7.9 million. Approximately $500,000 will be dedicated to improving traffic circulation and playgrounds at Mason Intermediate.

The bulk of the project’s cost — about $30.65 million — will be spent on a total renovation of Mason Middle School, which was built in 1959. Work will include replacing the HVAC system, lighting and roof, upgrading technology, resurfacing parking lots, adding new furnishings and updating finishes like flooring, paint, ceilings and casework.

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