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Meetings on high school remodel have slow start

The first in a series of meetings to learn what community members think about high school remodeling options wasn’t a big attraction.

Gathered in a small cluster Tuesday evening, dwarfed by the vastness of the Oak Harbor Elementary School gymnasium, the Oak Harbor school board was disappointed when only three community members showed up.

Wanting to talk about the possibility of the project with the people who would be asked to foot the bill for any sort of construction to the high school building, the board arranged four public meetings to take place this month. The purpose of the meetings is to inform the public of the three remodeling options being considered by the board, and to receive feedback that will hopefully keep the board’s decisions on the remodel in line with what the community wants.

The board agreed in January to begin an examination of the three options, each of which would cost between $40 million and $55 million. The scope of the work ranges from a major remodel of the nearly 30-year-old facility to building a completely new, two-story school.

Despite the low turnout, all five board members remained at the meeting for the full scheduled hour, and district Superintendent Rick Schulte proceeded with the discussion. The district’s construction manager, Gary Goltz, answered design and construction questions.

Of the three community members present at the meeting, one, Scott Hornung, is a regular at the twice-monthly school board meetings. Hornung asked questions and offered ideas on what the high school project should and should not include. Hornung said that he is not against a remodel or the construction of upgraded sports facilities, he just wants to make sure the district chooses a scope of work that gets the best value for the taxpayer dollar.

Hornung has definite ideas about the proposed sports facility, and doesn’t want the district to go overboard. The community should have easy access to the sports facility as well.

“My preference would still be to have the football and soccer stadium, and track, if space will allow it, in downtown Oak Harbor. I think it would be in the best interest of the town. If we’re going to put a significant amount of money into something, I’d like that option considered,” Hornung said to Schulte.

Another man at the meeting said he was there to get information about the project.

“I’m a school volunteer, and so I thought I’d see what it’s all about,” said Al Kantor.

Later, Kantor said it is difficult for him to grasp the idea of spending tens of millions of dollars on construction.

The third community member to attend the meeting was a mother of three children in the district. Leslie Payne’s children are “at all levels,” Payne said, with one each in elementary school, middle school and high school. The Paynes are a military family, so she doesn’t expect they will remain in Oak Harbor long enough for any of her children to benefit from a remodeled high school. Still, Payne wanted to learn about the possible scope of the project.

Kathy Jones, school board president, said she hopes to see more community members at the meetings, so that they can receive information to make an informed decision at the polls. While an election date for any high school construction measure has not been set, the district is shooting for a year from now, in March 2003.

Community Events, April 2014

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