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New elementary school plans exceed budget

By Jackie Mooney, For The Miami Student

According to Talawanda officials, the proposed design for the new Kramer Elementary School was approximately $1.4 million over budget. The past two months have been spent reconfiguring that design to place the project below budget.

The new elementary school will replace the current Kramer Elementary School, while keeping the original name.

"The existing building was built in 1962 with an addition in 1969," Mike Davis, Talawanda School District treasurer said. "It is beyond its useful life. The new Kramer will be on the same site to the north and a little to the east of the present building."

According to Davis, total cost of that project is estimated at $16.4 million. The state of Ohio is paying $11.5 million of that through the money the district earned by completing the prior major construction steps of its facilities plan.

The district must finance the difference, approximately $4.9 million, and is doing it without an increase in taxes, which explains the tight budget.

Charlie Jahnigen, vice president of SHP Leading Design, the firm working with the district, said they were successful at getting all the cuts in areas behind-the-scenes.

"The changes will not affect the learning environment," he said.

According to Jahnigen, the changes fall within state codes and guidelines for such things as reducing the parking area, deleting a retaining wall, which he said would be overcome by rerouting drainage, and reducing the number of windows in classrooms without reducing the percentage of glass per room.

Superintendent Kelly Spivey said the board members decided upon the cuts during a previous meeting when they agreed they were over budget.

"The last time, we agreed on a design, but we were $1 million-plus off," she said.

In the meantime, she noted, there had been calls and comments about rumors that various design elements had been dropped. One example was the enclosed courtyard, which many members of the school board and community had highly anticipated.

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"The courtyard has not been removed," Jahnigen said. "It is still enclosed. The biggest change is now it's flat. It's easier to build, construct, plan and maintain now."

It will still be able to be used for a variety of purposes and educational pursuits but will not be tiered.

That, in fact, was a key to some major savings on the project. The entire Kramer property is sloped in varying degrees and major savings will be realized by cutting down on the amount of earth that will need to be moved for construction.

"One of the most expensive areas of construction is moving dirt," Jahnigen said.

The new building will be slightly reconfigured into more of a one-story structure with a second floor on only one hallway, which will take advantage of the largest slope on the site and reduce the amount of dirt being moved.

Switching from geothermal for heating and cooling to a boiler/chiller system was another major savings.

"Geothermal was a tough decision, but I respect the budget," Jahnigen said.

He explained that change was a major factor in affecting plans to design the building to earn LEED platinum status, but cuts will allow for silver status, instead.

District treasurer Mike Davis explained that the new high school building uses geothermal but it was purchased in a "buyer's market" and said it is now a "seller's market" which would make the initial cost more expensive for this project.

According to Jahnigen, both systems have pros and cons and one advantage of the chiller/boiler system is that it heats or cools more quickly in the morning to get temperatures to appropriate levels.

Talawanda School District president Mark Butterfield said the design phase of the new building will still be completed in time to begin construction this summer.

"The board will ensure the design phase is completed timely and the budget is set for a successful construction under budget," Butterfield said. "It has been difficult task but it is done."