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School expansion scrapped in Bridgeport

BRIDGEPORT — A proposed addition to the Bridgeport Exempted Village School District campus has been tabled.

According to Superintendent of Schools Brent Ripley and District Treasurer Eric Meininger, the project was to be federally funded with Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief money, part of the Coronavirus Aide, Relief and Economic Security Act. The plans had been announced in September, but few details were in place. Officials had hoped to use a site adjacent to the current building to provide additional classroom capacity, which would have allowed the district to provide more space for social distancing.

This would have been the fourth expansion of the campus, located along National Road between Brookside and Lansing. Previous work has included the preschool addition, the administration office and the exercise science center. The current building was constructed in 2006.

“We tried to fit it in our budget, but we just couldn’t do it,” Meininger noted. “We sent out a Request for Qualifications for architectural work and had six replies. All six were brought in for interviews during two special board (of education) meetings. They all came to the board with great ideas, however, after much thought about what we wanted to use this money for, we just couldn’t make any of them fit into our budget, so we are looking at investing the money into our current building. There are several options.

“We are looking at possibly replacing the flat portion of our roof and/or maybe doing some work on the heating and cooling system,” he said.

Superintendent Brent Ripley described some of the other possibilities.

“The roof is the original from 16 years ago when the building was built. Over the years, it has had some repair work done,” Ripley said, noting the warranty on the roof expires in February. “It is a rubber membrane-type of roof.”

Meininger said pursuing a new roof would fit under the mandated guidelines.

“Prepare, prevent and respond to COVID would be our goal,” he said of using the federal funding. “We want to use these dollars wisely. This is a one-time thing due to COVID.”

The treasurer said the district has about $1.5 million to utilize at this point in time. Ripley said some of the ESSER money has already been spent on variable air volume valves above each classroom in an attempt to regulate the temperature better.

“This upgrade seems to have made a difference. With the building being 16 years old, we are going to have to start replacing things like that,” Ripley added. “Myself, Mr. Meininger and the board (of education) take pride in being good stewards with the money we were given. We want to put this money to good use.

“If we can’t afford it, we will find another way to do something with our ESSER money,” Ripley emphasized. “We will not be going to the voters within our school district for an additional levy for the district.”

The treasurer said there is no need to rush a decision.

“We have time to utilize this ESSER money, as it does not have to be expended until September of 2024,” Meininger said. “So, we’ve got some time. Now we are back to the drawing board to see how we can best spend these dollars.”

Ripley said, “A main factor in not being able to fit the original plan to do a building addition was not due to the quality work from the six companies we met with. The costs for building materials is so very high right now. With this, there has been a large increase that kept our potential building project at a cost that we didn’t want to risk taking on. There were ways we may have been able to make the project work, but it ultimately came down to quality. The board, Mr. Meininger and I all want to continue to make improvements that meet the quality of the building that we currently have.”

The Bridgeport district has just over 800 students in pre-kindergarten through 12th grade.

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