Fostoria City Schools began a new chapter in 2018.

On May 10, the district broke ground on its new Fostoria Junior/Senior High School building.

While this winter’s weather has slowed progress slightly, the new building is coming together.

Superintendent Andrew Sprang said crews are working on getting the north side of the building dry inside, and drywall installed in spots where it’s already dry.

The next steps will include finishing the drywall, building walls, plumbing, heating and cooling ductwork, and other miscellaneous work.

“It’s the kind of stuff you don’t really think about,” Sprang said. “It’s all the stuff that you don’t see, the stuff you kind of take for granted. You don’t realize how much time and labor goes into doing that.”

The outside of the structure should be completed in the next month, at which point the roof will be finished.

Furniture and technology has gone out to bid.

“We’ve gotten a lot further along than where we were this time last year, sitting there looking at snow fences and dirt piles,” Sprang said.

“It’s exciting to see what they’ve done and it’ll be exciting to see what the rest of the year will look like.”

Outside of assigning classrooms to teachers and getting the furniture and technology in place, officials are simply waiting for the building to be fully constructed.

Sprang said construction is on track to be finished at the end of 2019.

“It’s starting to become a reality,” he said. “When you look at the outside of the building, it doesn’t necessarily look like the largest building, but when you get in there, it’s a big school. It’s exciting.

“We’re going to have opportunities to do a lot of different creative things for our students and that’s what we were hoping for, so it’s coming together.”

Fostoria Elementary School

All Fostoria City Schools students will be on one central campus starting the 2019-20 academic year.

The current Fostoria Intermediate Elementary School is in phase four of six to becoming Fostoria Elementary School. Sprang said phase five should begin in March.

“It can be a bit deceiving,” he said. “People think, ‘Oh, it’s almost done.’ And it is, but at the same time there’s still a lot of work to be done.”

Phase five will include total remodeling of several classrooms within the building — including new flooring and ceiling tiles, fresh coats of paint and technology rewiring.

Phase six will consist of creating more classrooms out of spaces inside the building — such as turning four science labs into six classrooms, adding onto the kitchen area to create another service line, more flooring projects, installing all of the new technology and new phone systems, and bringing in the furniture.

“We had to keep this project in phases to break it down while the kids were here,” Sprang explained. “We’re trying to have construction going on while having it as a functional school. There’s a lot of planning that goes into that to create as little disruption as possible. Staying on schedule is very important.

“It creates a little bit of anxiety, a little bit of turmoil… I have to give that group a lot of credit for working through those situations. The kids and the adults are very resilient.”

Phase one was a smaller phase, when crews redid the lighting in the gymnasium.

Phase two consisted of transforming the former auxiliary gym into a library, giving the hallway outside the gym a facelift, redoing the boiler room, renovating the main office, clinics and other similar areas, and mechanical work on the north end of the building in preparation for the addition.

Phase three was the construction and completion of the addition as well as the transformation of the locker rooms to art rooms.

Phase four, the current project, is similar to phase five but in different classrooms.

When school starts in September, the building, blacktop and playgrounds should be finished. The only work that may still be in progress is the roof, which should be done at the end of the fall.

“It’s exciting to see. Anyone who has been in the building has seen the transformation from what it looked like to what it looks like now,” Sprang said. “It looks so much better than it did before.”

Pieces of the past

Once the district moves to a central campus, Riley and Longfellow elementary schools, as well as the former Holmes building, are scheduled to be demolished.

Sprang said the district will be scheduling community open houses, inviting citizens to walk through the old buildings one last time.

The legacy of those buildings will live on through a historical tribute in the new building. Sprang said every building in the history of Fostoria City Schools will be represented in the project.

It is undetermined at this point what the district will do with the properties once the buildings are razed.

How it all began

The Ohio School Facilities Commission 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 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 be kept.

The district will keep the northern section of the junior/senior high school building — including the commons area, cafeteria, gymnasium, performing arts center, weight room, art classrooms, 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 existing high school gymnasium, renovations to the locker rooms, corridor connectors from the old portion of the school to the new portion, as well as replacing the roof of the intermediate/elementary building, which was built in 1994.

The construction will put all students on one campus — grades preK-6 at the elementary school and grades 7-12 at the high school.

“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 has 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.”

Sprang and other school officials presented the building proposal to community members in July 2015, stating that the facility would attract more student enrollment and could bring in a bigger business population and potential Fostoria residents, as well as provide a better learning environment for students.

School district residents showed their support when the majority voted in favor of a tax levy to help cover the LFI costs. The 3.5-mill, 35-year bond issue was passed in November 2015. The district began collecting taxes in 2016.

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.