GROVE CITY – Committee members have been busy collecting data for Grove City schools' 25-year master plan.

Members of the seven committees under the Citizens Advisory Committee for the Grove City 2040 Plan met recently to discuss certain building needs – as well as educational hopes – for the district.

The meeting was video recorded; once it is edited, a link will be posted on the district's website for the public to view the meeting online.

The committees first came together more than eight weeks ago, and the subcommittees have since met to discuss subjects such as school facilities, athletic programs, educational spaces, learning, school security and how the district can achieve its goals working with community partners.

Eckles Architects and Engineers, New Castle, was hired in November for $65,000 to work with the committees. Eckles is also conducting its own analysis for the master plan and will – for another $10,000 – provide options and recommendations in writing for the board to approve. 

The study is projected to take six months.

School board members are leading the various sub-committees.

• Director Adam Renick provided a booklet of findings he and other advisory members offered when touring the schools and maintenance building. "We looked at issues, potential upgrades, fixes now and fixes for the near future; and gave suggestions for fixes that could be way out," he said.

It took the members four hours in November to tour Highland Primary Center and the high school. In December, the middle school, Hillview Intermediate Center and the maintenance building were toured, Renick added.

The tours were meant to show the state of the buildings as they are now, examining things like building exteriors; means of emergency exit; safety and security; accessibility; infrastructure; mechanical issues and energy efficiency, Renick said. 

From the tours, members determined Highland has the greatest need for upgrading, he added.

On the other hand, the new middle school is "a beautiful facility. It's the way all our buildings should align," he said. "It's open. It's got technology in it."

The facilities group will provide information about cost upgrades when the other committees are ready for it, he noted. Renick urged the other sub-committees to use his group "as a tool," he said.

• Board member Vern Saylor gave an update from the Athletic Committee.

The largest project the district will face is replacing the turf on Forker Field as it nears its expiration date, he said.

"We call this group GC 2040, but the way things are now, this may end up being GC 2016, GC 2017, GC 2018. In three years, we're going to have to do something with that football field," Saylor said.

Locker rooms, restrooms, parking and ticket/concessions will also need to be addressed at Forker.

If Forker's six-lane track is expanded to eight lanes, it could hold district meets. "If we could increase these facilities, we could have district football there," Saylor added. 

Needs for the high school gymnasium, basketball court and baseball, softball and soccer fields were also considered.

The district has looked at having all sports in one location, using land near the middle school, he added.

Funding would be the biggest obstacle; facilities, security and education would be the district's first priority, not athletics, Saylor said. His committee discussed having a business brand fund an athletic project in exchange for advertising.

"Do I care if my kids played football at 'McDonald's Stadium?' " he said. "I really don't."

An audience member asked Saylor to put the swimming program on his committee's list.

• Director Bill Norris gave an update about safety and security in the district. 

For example, "There are 29 points of entry at the high school," he said. "What are the conditions of the doors? Are there keys for the points of entries? Some may not even have keys."

His committee took information from the facilities group about the security of the schools. They examined what cameras were at the points of entry; card readers; vestibules at the main entrances; and accessibility for fire trucks.

"We are looking at all aspects," Norris said. "But we don't want to spend $120,000 on safety if we move a building or create another building," he said, such as Highland "which has tons of issues."

• Roberta Hensel reported on pedagogy. Her group interviewed district teachers about their needs and toured South Fayette Elementary School.

Spaces for programs like Head Start, parent training, the arts, all-day kindergarten and students "with a lot of baggage" are needed, she said.

Technology also needs to be a part of everyday learning with full-time technology instructors available rather than nontechnology teachers who have difficulty keeping up with the trends, she said.

South Fayette's kids were already creating and tweaking computer programs, Hensel said. "Hello, these are fifth-graders."

• Heather Baker's committee involves community partnerships with the school district; they especially considered after-school programs for kids to deter them from having idle time. Ideas like music, theater and science camps were also considered, since the arts are an important aspect of a child's development, she added.

• David Esposito, principal architect with Eckles, spoke about lengthening the school day. In Pittsburgh, a faith-based school in the urban neighborhood of Friendship has school from 7 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. to keep students from being idle. 

The students have academics, meals and chores at the school.

• Carolyn Oppenheimer's update on the Real Estate Committee considered declining school enrollment since 2007, which she said is important to consider when building or upgrading buildings.

The next advisory meeting will be in March.

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