Old school faces wrecking ball in Springboro

The local food pantry and a church will both be homeless if the Springboro school board decides to tear down Jonathan Wright School.

Still Superintendent Todd Petrey and Board President Charles Anderson anticipate this decision Tuesday, freeing the district of the costs of continuing to maintain the 60-year-old school named after the city’s founder.

Two weeks ago, Petrey projected the district would save as much as $2 million by avoiding upgrades needed to get the old school – closed in 2009 — ready to educate kids again. The proposal is available on the district web site.

In addition, Petrey said the district would save about $500,000 a year on additional support staff that won’t be needed when the district expands existing schools, rather than reopening “JW.”

The board is expected to continue the discussion — and possibly vote — Tuesday.

“Any and all options will come before the board,” Anderson said last week. “At some point, something has to be done.”

The leaders of the Living Waters Lutheran Church are already shopping for new worship locations for the congregation, which hails primarily from Centerville, Springboro, Beavercreek, Miamisburg and Lebanon.

“In terms of convenience, it would be nice to remain. I just don’t think that’s in the cards. I accept that,” Pastor Mark Daniels said last week.

Although the old school has been home for four years, Daniels said the congregation was upbeat about the change.

“There’s just a sense of excitement. We’re just waiting to see what happens next. The prevailing attitude is God is going to get us to the next location wherever that location is,” Daniels said.

The director of the Springboro Community Action Center is awaiting the board decision.

“I’m going to wait and see what happens on Tuesday, and then we will start planning from there,” said Wendy Ford, a founder of the center and crisis intervention coordinator for the Springboro school district.

The pantry provides food and other emergency assistance to about 450 people a month. It moved to JW from another local school in 2012.

“There’ll be a place,” Anderson said. “This is a giving community. Somebody will come forth.”

JW was closed in 2009, as the board made budget cuts, after voters rejected three consecutive levies for new operating money.

“We’re very saddened were going to have to make this decision,” said David Baker, the district superintendent at the time. “We hope someday in the near future we can open this building.”

But earlier this year the board opted to expand other schools, rather than reopen JW to ease overcrowding at the elementary schools.

Two weeks ago, faced with a $130,000 roof repair, Petrey proposed demolishing the school in February and establishing the Jonathan Wright Family Park And Nature Center. He suggested the district might need the land for another school “20 years down the road.”

The old school bell and other memorabilia from the original red schoolhouse, torn down to build the existing school, would be preserved.

“I want to keep the legacy of the Wright family,” Petrey said.“I think if this was the original building, it would be different.”

Demolition, expected to cost $250,000, would also improve the value, Petrey and Anderson said.

The 6.4 acre site is a short walk from Ohio 741 and Ohio 73, where a $10 million intersection improvement project is expected to set the stage for redevelopment around this crossroads at the center of Springboro.

“I think it will be more valuable in two years,” Anderson said.

At the Aug. 11 meeting, board member Jim Rigano said if it wasn’t needed for a school site, the board would be wise to sell the property. Rigano also questioned the conversion to a park.

Questioning the district operating a park, board member David Petroni said the district should retain the building, rather than demolish it.

“You’ll do better down the road fixing and changing things than building new,” Petroni said.

Petroni suggested upping the church’s rent and finding another tenant for unused space in the building.

Regardless, Petrey said the old playground equipment behind the building needed to be removed. Last week, tall grass grew around the swings and apparatus.

“This is a tough decision to make,” Petrey said. “That’s probably why it hasn’t been made.”

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