By CECILIA FOX
Record Herald Writer
BETHEL TOWNSHIP - On the May 6 ballot, Bethel residents will be asked to pass a levy that will allow the district to renovate and expand the schools.
If the 7.94 mill levy passes, it will generate $22 million dollars for renovations and added classroom spaces. It would cost the owner of a $100,000 home $277 a year or $0.75 a day.
If it fails, the district believes it will face a struggle to accommodate a growing student population in an undersized facility.
A lack of space is a major concern for the district. The schools are expecting as many as 400 new students from the Carriage Trails development in the next five to ten years, but will have nowhere to put them unless the levy is passed, school officials have said.
“We receive about 0.4 students for every new home that goes up. About 100 homes, we get about 45 to 50 students,” Superintendent Larry Smith said.
Carriage Trails, one of the fastest growing residential developments in Ohio, is building around 130 new homes a year. Smith said the district has picked up nearly 100 students from the development so far.
There are currently 1,033 students enrolled in Bethel schools, and the buildings are at least 20 percent undersized according to state standards, Smith said.
In addition to a lack of space, another issue facing the district is the age of the facilities. The buildings range in age from nearly 100 years old to 50, the most recently added classroom spaces were built in 1969. The major issues in the buildings include a lack of air conditioning, unreliable electricity, as well as very limited space, restrooms, and wheelchair accessibility.
This project would add a new high school wing with more than 20 new classrooms, including science labs and technology space, and a new central cafeteria with more food preparation space and added seating. It would also include various site improvements like more parking, widening State Route 201, and new athletic fields. The district would no longer need to use modular units as classrooms.
Levy money would also be used for renovations to the existing buildings, which will all be kept. Some of the renovations include upgrades to technology, air conditioning, added security, handicapped accessibility improvements, and new restrooms.
About 82 percent of the money raised by the levy will go to new construction and renovation. Athletic facilities will comprise nine percent of the budget.
In order to make certain improvements, like parking and traffic issues, as well as building expansion, the football stadium will have to be moved. Board member Scott Hawthorn explained that the bleachers and other components of the current stadium will be reused.
Hawthorn also said that the district will be seeking alternative ways of generating funding for the athletic facilities, like offering naming rights to sponsors, so that all of the levy money can be used to create more academic space.
If the levy fails, the board predicts that the district could have to lease or buy as many as 10 modular units by 2018 to keep up with increased enrollment from Carriage Trails. In this scenario, the campus could end up looking like “a small trailer park,” board member Brian Moore said.
If the levy passes, the modular units may still be needed to provide classroom space while the building is under construction.
The district is not seeking state funding for the project because state calculations consider Bethel to be as wealthy as Oakwood, making Bethel eligible for just 20 percent matching funds. The state would also require a “total fix,” meaning all new construction or more renovations than the district can afford.
Smith estimated that, with state involvement, residents could be looking at a $45 million project instead of the $22 million project the district has planned.
More information about the project can be found on the district’s website at www.bethel.k12.oh.us in the ‘Facility Plan’ tab at the very top of the page.
A massive community campaign has been enlisted to promote the levy. A resolution also was passed in support of it by the Bethel Township trustees at their April 8 meeting.