WOODSFIELD - High-fives, hugs and handshakes marked the passage of a levy Tuesday that will bring modern facilities to the Switzerland of Ohio Local School District.
"I'm absolutely ecstatic," said parent and school board President Scott Dierkes upon hearing that the 8.19-mill measure had passed. "It's a wonderful thing for everyone in the community, the whole district. Things will be moving fast now."
The levy is expected to generate $35 million in local funds over the next 28 years for school construction and renovation totaling $88 million, with the balance being assumed by the Ohio Schools Facilities Commission.
Photo by Jennifer Compston-Strough
A crowd at Traditions restaurant in Woodsfield celebrate after residents of the Switzerland of Ohio Local School District approved a levy to build and renovate schools.
Unofficial results show the levy received 3,761 votes in support and 2,619 in opposition. Monroe County Board of Elections Director Betty Rousenberg provided those unofficial figures, noting that 32 district residents who live in Noble County cast ballots, as did about 2,200 from Belmont County.
Rousenberg said the election went smoothly, with the only challenge being a lack of funds. She said the elections board initially paid the roughly $20,000 cost of the election, but the school district will be billed for the cost since the levy was the only item on the ballot.
School Superintendent Larry Elliott agreed with Dierkes that the result was great news for the district.
"I'm very happy," Elliott said. "Now is the time to celebrate our success.
"I want to thank everyone who worked very hard to make this a reality," he added. "We will get to work first thing (this) morning. This is great for the community, the kids and the local labor force."
Elliott estimated the construction of six new schools - a new Beallsville High School; a Sardis/Hannibal elementary school at the current River High School site; a new Powhatan Point Elementary near the intersection of Ohio 7 and Ohio 148; a new Woodsfield Elementary and Monroe Central High School on a shared site along Ohio 78 on the west side of the village; and a new Skyvue Elementary at the current site of that school - and renovation of River High School will lead to the creation of about 1,000 jobs in the county.
District teachers also were thrilled to hear that the levy had passed. Paula Frank, a Woodsfield Elementary staff member, said it would be appropriate for employees to "dance in the streets," as they have waited "decades" for voters to approve new school construction.
Andrew Boan, a graduate of Beallsville High School and a current teacher at Powhatan Point Elementary, said he could see the need "everywhere" in the district. He added that he believes voters supported the levy "because it was the last chance we had."
District officials plan to meet with representatives of the Ohio School Facilities Commission on Thursday. The commission had said this was the district's only opportunity to have the state pay for such a large share of the initiative.
Joining them Thursday will be Rick Milhoan and N. Kevin Green of Project and Consultation Services Inc., which will oversee the project.
They expect design work to begin within 30 days; site work for Monroe Central, Beallsville and Powhatan Point would follow in the fall. Construction at those sites should get under way by spring 2010, and site work for the three additional new buildings should begin around that time. Renovations at River are set to take place in the summer of 2010.
"We're excited and ready to get started," Milhoan said.