By MORGAN MANNS
Fostoria City Schools has begun a new chapter in the district’s history.
Equipped with hardhats and shovels in hand, 14 Fostoria City Schools’ students took the first step into that new chapter during a groundbreaking ceremony Thursday.
“When you look around our campus here, you see it’s time to write, or in this case, build the next chapter of our history of the district,” Superintendent Andrew Sprang said. “It’s a great time to be a part of Fostoria City Schools.”
Students had the opportunity to participate in a short essay competition where they had to explain why they’re excited to be a part of FCS. Sprang said four common themes prevailed through essays — diversity, opportunity, caring and friendship.
“These are all qualities that help make Fostoria a great place to be,” he said.
Students chosen to participate in the groundbreaking ceremony included Maxwell Fleming and Isaiah Williams, Longfellow Elementary School; Avalon Sprang and Winnie Cobb, Riley Elementary School; Trinity Williamson, Addelyn Sprang, Evelyn Guernsey and Chaosity Hernandez, Fostoria Intermediate Elementary School; and Emma Pletcher, Ali Tatum, Michelle Gao, Iyanna Taylor, Ciarra Jones and Michael Daniels, Fostoria Junior/Senior High School.
Also during the ceremony, students in the band performed the school fight song and the alma mater as well as other songs prior to the ceremony. More student participation took place when The TRIBE sang the National Anthem and FETV students filmed the ceremony, which will be broadcasted on the FETV YouTube station and Facebook as well as Channel 10.
“When we began in 2015, our goal was to provide a learning environment to prepare our students for the future world that they will go out into once they leave our halls,” Sprang said. “Today, that is still the goal as the design of the classrooms and the entire building will provide flexibility, allowing students and staff to be project-centered, collaborative, investigatory and able to work outside of the parameters of a typical classroom.”
Through a partnership with the Ohio School Facilities Commission, the state is funding 89 percent of the nearly $50 million project — $41,851,085 — leaving the district to pay $9,446,893.
The cost includes partial demolition of most of the junior/senior high school building, which was built in the 1970s, as well as Riley Elementary and Longfellow schools and the former Holmes Elementary School building.
Included in the project budget is money for a new 123,314 square-foot junior/senior high school building, adding 11,533 square feet of new space to the Fostoria Intermediate Elementary School and new furniture, technology, kitchen supplies, maintenance and heating and cooling. Recently purchased items in the current buildings will also be kept.
The district will keep the northern section of the FJSHS building — including the commons area, cafeteria, gymnasium, performing arts center, weight room, art classrooms and band and choir rooms — and will have corridors attaching it to the new facility, which is planned to sit atop the current north parking lot of the school.
Also included in the cost to the district are LFIs, or locally funded initiatives. These include new bleachers in the FJSHS gymnasium — which were completed this year — renovations to the FJSHS locker rooms and corridor connectors from the old portion of the school to the new portion as well as replacing the roof of the FIES building, which was built in 1994.
The construction will put all FCS students on one campus — grades preK-6 at FIES and grades 7-12 at FJSHS.
Shook Touchstone was awarded the $40.5 million contract to construct the new building while Garmann Miller & Associates was chosen as the architect for the project.
Sprang said construction and renovations to the elementary building will be completed in time for the 2019-20 academic year and the expected completion date for the new FJSHS building is December of 2019.
“While we will then close the remaining buildings in town, their legacy will live on through a historical tribute as well as certain items incorporated into the design,” he said. “Every building in the history of Fostoria City Schools will be represented in the project.”
Community members showed their support in the district when the majority voted in favor of a tax levy to help cover the LFI costs to upgrade the facilities. The 3.5-mill, 35-year bond issue was passed in November 2015. The district began collecting taxes in 2016.
Sprang and other school officials presented the building project proposal to community members in July 2015, stating the facility would attract more student enrollment and bring in a bigger business population and potential Fostoria residents, as well as provide a better learning environment for students.
And they’re not the only ones who believe it.
“I think (the new building) will definitely attract more students with even more diversity,” Gao, a sophomore, said, further explaining why she enjoys being a Redmen. “We’re known as the most diverse school in the area. We get to express ourselves more than at other schools. You’re not judged based on who you are.”
“LEAD (through the Leader in Me initiative) helps,” Jones, a junior, added. “It’s really a good (program). You can be yourself here and not be judged.”
Although she won’t experience life in the new building, she said she is excited to watch the process unfold and is excited for her peers.
“It’s an honor to be a part of this ceremony and to be able to say I did this,” Taylor, a sophomore who participated in the groundbreaking, said.
She will be in the first class to graduate from the new junior/senior high school building and said she’s excited about the new learning environment.
“It’s pretty cool we get to experience all the new technology and just be in a new environment we get to learn in,” she said, adding, “We’re going to be better prepared for our future.”
Also during the ceremony, Sprang acknowledged the teams working on the project, including the Citizens for Better Schools, Historical Legacy Committee, current and past members of the school board as well as district officials, representatives from Ohio Facilities Construction Commissions, Garmann Miller & Associates architects and engineers, construction manager Shook Touchstone and representatives from the city of Fostoria.
In addition, Lou Cook from Gov. John Kasich’s office presented the district with a proclamation. The proclamation officially recognized FJSHS’s groundbreaking celebration on behalf of state of Ohio, stating the new school building will “not only contribute to the education of Fostoria City Schools’ students but will also have a positive impact throughout the entire state of Ohio.”
“‘We look forward to the difference this school will have on your community and we commend the hard work and dedication of all those involved in the project,'” Cook read, adding, “And let me say, Go”¦ Redmen!”
Sprang then thanked the crowd of about 100 for attending and being a part of “making this day possible.”
“I look forward to the next time that we’re here, which will be the opening of our new facility,” he said.