Plans for a joint community meeting with West Geauga and Newbury local school districts remain in the works regarding the future of soon-to-be defunct buildings. The decision likely will be based on dollars and cents.
During a February joint board meeting between West G and Newbury, members discussed plans to seek community input on how to use buildings now housing Newbury students. On July 1, Newbury will become part of the West G district through a territory transfer.
At Monday’s West G meeting, board President Bill Beers said he and board member Kathy Leavenworth met with Newbury officials and a consultant on the possibility of gathering community input.
“There are some things that we clearly have to make known no matter how we go ahead and get input from the communities, and one in particular is that the overriding concern has to be on the fiscal responsibility of the new district – the whole district,” Dr. Beers said. “The impact on the finances of the district as a whole [is what needs] to be number one in our decisions of what we do with the buildings.”
He said that in discussions with the consultant, the two districts decided that guidelines will need to be set for what people can suggest. He added that the guidelines can’t be too restrictive or specific, though, to avoid hindering creative input.
Dr. Beers said Director of Technology and Operations Sean Whelan will pull together some financials for the boards to help agree on what these guidelines should be.
“I think [what] everybody has agreed upon is that we don’t want that property to become an eyesore,” Dr. Beers said, mentioning the old Chester School that was demolished in 2006 and 2007. “We don’t want that to happen there [in Newbury], so what steps can we take to make sure that doesn’t happen? What can we take to limit our impact on our finances as a whole district?” He said these are questions to consider when coming up with the potential guidelines.
“Maintenance of the property is not cheap, so I don’t think we want to hang on to it for five years because of the cost,” he added. “That also would undoubtedly lead to it becoming more of an eyesore, so we’ve got to figure out some of the time limitations on it as well.”
West G Superintendent Richard Markwardt said the district wants to avoid receiving a lot of ideas that would just not be possible.
“While we’re interested in hearing what people say and what people would like, we’d like them to be scenarios that are economically feasible for a new West G,” Dr. Markwardt said.
Mrs. Leavenworth agreed. “We do not want to go out to the community and leave it wide open and say, ‘Give us all your creative ideas of what we can do,’ and then come back to them and say, ‘Well, we could never have done that.
“I think it’s far more productive to give some parameters and to give [the community] some idea of what our thinking is and what we can’t do,” she said.
Board member Ben Kotowski asked about the timeframe.
Dr. Beers said the consultant has come up with three possibilities that he had yet to review. If a survey is what is decided upon, it could take a couple of months from the creation of the survey to receiving and analyzing its results, he said. Whatever the districts decide to roll out would have to be done by the middle of this summer, he added.
Mr. Kotowski said one goal is to keep Newbury residents’ opinions viable.
“It’s of huge importance to Newbury as a community that they’re able to, in a sense, re-imagine their town center,” he said, “that they feel that they do, in fact, have some input that’s really seriously considered as to what happens to that piece of property.”