School and city officials on Monday approved the initial plans for a new Firestone High School, estimated to cost nearly $74 million.
The state will pay $32 million, with Akron paying its basic share (41 percent) plus nearly $19 million in extras the state won’t help fund, including a performance-quality auditorium and renovations of the existing gym and swimming pool.
“Seventy-three million is a big number,” said Akron Public Service Director Rick Merolla, who serves on the city-school committee overseeing the nearly $800 million school construction program.
The combined Buchtel High/Perkins Middle School, which opens in the fall, was budgeted for about $52.5 million.
Like Buchtel, Firestone High School will be combined with its middle school, Litchfield. The overall Firestone building will be 338,082 square feet, which is about a third larger than Buchtel, said Paul Flesher, the district’s executive director of facility planning and capital improvement.
Firestone expects to enroll 1,750 students in grades 6 through 12 compared with 1,150 at Buchtel.
Flesher said the estimated cost per square foot — $218 for Firestone — is somewhat higher than that for Buchtel (about $200), but he attributed the difference to general market conditions for the two projects.
The state is paying for 59 percent of the basic costs and a voter-approved city income tax increase will cover the rest. The schools double as community centers for public use after hours.
However, extras the state doesn’t consider essential — such as an auditorium — must be paid for entirely by locally raised dollars.
Firestone’s auditorium is expected to cost nearly $2 million to accommodate one of the high school’s premiere offerings: the visual and performing arts program. It will include a deeper and higher stage than usual to make room for behind-the-curtains rigging systems for lights, curtains and scenery. The auditorium also will have enhanced lighting and sound equipment.
“It will be a performing arts auditorium,” Flesher said.
Plans call for $2 million in renovations to the swimming pool building and $1.2 million in renovations to the adjacent gym, which will be preserved.
Litchfield students will move into the Perkins Middle School building next fall. Litchfield will then be torn down and replaced with the new facility while Firestone High School students remain in their building. When construction is finished sometime in 2015, Litchfield and Firestone students would move into the new building, which will have separate entrances and classrooms for the two schools.
The old Firestone High School would then be destroyed to make room for fields and other open space.
John Higgins can be reached at 330-996-3792 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the education blog at http://education.ohio.com/.