Waynedale starts in on state-of-the-art learning facility

Waynedale starts in on state-of-the-art  learning facility

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When the new Waynedale Schools building opens in the late-summer of 2024, there is likely to be one consensus: It’s going to be cool.

And that will apply in nearly every sense of the word.

Ground was broken last month on the 170,000-square-foot facility that will carry with it an estimated $50-$55 million price tag and eventually house all students grades k-12 in the district, which Superintendent Jon Ritchie said eventually will change monikers from Southeast Local Schools to Waynedale Local Schools.

“I think people are really excited,” Ritchie said. “People are excited about the opportunity for our kids to have a state-of-the-art learning facility and how we are very fortunate to have the Rover Pipeline come through and make it possible.”

Ritchie was referring to a natural gas conduit constructed over the last decade that provided a financial windfall to the area. He said once the district started seeing money from the pipeline, the school construction project got the financial boost it needed.

And while there’s no time like the present, that may hold even more true in the current economic environment. Things aren’t getting any cheaper, and construction is chief among them.

“We know if we wait, construction costs are just going through the roof,” Ritchie said. “The state has told us that they anticipate construction costs in the next calendar year are going to be going up. We think the timing is right, and we have the funds to do this. It’s just a question of what we’ll be able to do.”

The superintendent, who also heads the Rittman and Orrville districts, along with the Tri-County Educational Service Center, said the school will have all the hallmarks of any new facility, which means modern classrooms, state-of-the-art design and the one that had everyone most pumped — air-conditioning.

“I am pretty excited for it to open up because you get that AC and everything,” said Evelynn Frederick, a rising sophomore at Waynedale who would be part of the first class to graduate from the new school in 2025. “It’s really bad on some days.”

HVAC is not the only cool part about the new building, which will be as modern as can be, or at least close to it. New facilities don’t automatically mean better schools, but they definitely don’t hurt.

The Waynedale building will feature all sorts of futuristic classroom touches, some based on requests of the district faculty, which Ritchie said was asked to be involved in the design.

“I think people are going to be really excited,” he said. “It gives us a chance to create a better learning environment.”

It also will help consolidate the district, which is currently home to six buildings, four of which have been around for more than a century. Fredericksburg Elementary has stood since 1892.

“We have things you just can’t do in those buildings that you can do with a new building,” Ritchie said. “It’s also a chance for the community to come together vs. four separate communities in four separate buildings.”

The groundbreaking was the first step in Waynedale becoming the latest Wayne County district to feature new physical facilities.

Ritchie was part of a new construction at Rittman in the last decade, as well as at Orrville. In fact, he said, this will be his fifth new build.

“You get better and smarter each time you build one,” he said. “It’s just like building a house. The second house you build is better than the first house you build. We learned a lot of different things doing the other ones. We learned how important it is to assemble a good team to work on the building and the things of that nature. It was a learning experience on a variety of levels.”

The new k-12 building will be a four-wing affair that will sit near the current Waynedale High School. The new facility is expected to be completed in time for the 2024-25 school year.

A pair of students from each of the district’s six existing schools took part in the groundbreaking. Each was given a ceremonial gold shovel and a hard hat.

For London Summers, 12, a rising seventh-grader, the new school presented a good news-bad news situation. The good outweighed the bad, and Summers said the whole idea was more exciting than anything.

“I will have to see my little brother every day, and I won’t get a break from him,” she said. “I think it’s a little scary because it’s different. But everyone going to one building is what they used to do the whole time, so they’re really just reverting back to it.”

Most of the students on hand for the ceremony also will be around for the opening. They will be pioneers of sorts, much like their scholarly ancestors were at the older buildings in the district.

Those relics stood the test of time, and Ritchie said the plan is for the new facility to do the same. Sometime around 2120, the folks in the area can look forward to having this conversation again — but not sooner.

“We’re not just building a school for 2024. We’re building a school for the next 100 years,” Ritchie said. “It’s going to have metal studs so you can move walls and things like that. We have to make sure it’s a great learning space. Who knows what they’ll be doing in 50 years, 100 years from now? You have to be prepared for that.”