For months, it has been assumed that Warren County School District offices were moving to Russell Elementary School once it is closed at the end of the current school year.
The board's message on Monday? Not quite yet.
An agreement for drawings and specifications for the conversion, brought forth by the administration, was shot down by the school board's Physical Plant and Facilities Committee on Monday in favor of a broader feasibility study.
"It's a motion for drawing and specifications," said Board President Arthur Stewart. "I don't know what... we are 'specing.' The board has not obtained a single ascertainable goal for this project."
"Have we given consideration to, we don't know what air conditioning is going to cost (at Russell)? Have we just played with the idea for Russell as a place for alt-ed (alternative education) and the LEC (Learning Enrichment Center) and leave central office where it is because the rent is cheap... have we looked through all the alternatives?" he asked.
"As of right now, there is no cost associated with any of this. Sooner or later, the costs are going to come into play," said board member Paul Mangione. "(We) sat here earlier and talk about squeezing this program, then all of a sudden we find all this money we may or may not have. (It is) kinda hard to follow the logic."
Stewart suggested that the district might be able to undertake an assessment of needs on its own without an architect.
"What kind of timeline are we looking at?" Mangione asked.
"The plan was originally for some of us to move over the summer," said Superintendent Dr. William Clark, noting that the plan was outlined in a previous administration. "We do need to have some way... to have someone else come in... if we don't occupy the building by July 1, what happens?"
"There is a reimbursement issue there," said Director of Buildings and Grounds Dr. Norbert Kennerknecht.
Clark said the reimbursement can be retained if the move starts in the summer even if it is not completed until December.
"That's a pretty important factor," said Stewart. "We've never launched a project" without a cost estimate.
One of the areas of discussion was whether air conditioning would need to be installed in the building. "I think the AC is a moot point," said Clark. "I don't think that is an immediate need."
Stewart then asked architect Chris Coughlin, with Erie-based Hallgreen, Restifo, Loop and Coughlin who pitched two preliminary drawings for the school during the meeting, for a cost estimate to "give us a target for what this will cost overall... ballpark it on a square foot basis."
Coughlin estimated the cost of adding air conditioning to Russell at approximately $500,000.
"Here's the bigger picture, how efficiently are we using" central office, board vice president Donna Zariczny said. "We have 36 offices shown on plan number one. Is 36 staff besides the directors and superintendent sufficient or isn't it? These are things that we don't even know because no one has analyzed the staff. We need more information on staffing and how that is truly going to work in the building."