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Survey used to gather input on new Quaker Valley project

| Monday, Feb. 19, 2018, 11:00 p.m.
Quaker Valley High School
Quaker Valley High School

The Quaker Valley School District spent $9,500 to gauge resident interest and gather input surrounding the possible construction of a new high school.

A live phone survey, conducted over several nights beginning Feb. 6, asked 200 registered Quaker Valley voters to share their thoughts on the high school construction project and if they would vote “yes” for the district to borrow $90 million for the project.

That number is up from the $70 million district leaders told residents they were considering asking resident approval for borrowing at the first community forum on the high school project, held Jan. 22. Leaders said at the time they are dealing with estimates and no numbers are final.

“The district has been working to engage district residents and assess what they know about the high school project and the current high school building,” district spokeswoman Angela Conigliaro said.

Board members in October approved an agreement with Cleveland-based R Strategy Group. That agreement included “communications, community research and community engagement regarding the high school project,” Conigliaro said. “One part of that work has been overseeing the development of the public opinion survey to help us learn what the community knows and thinks about the project.”

The survey was conducted by Lake Research Partners with input from R Strategy Group.

During the 15-minute phone survey, residents were asked to answer questions that included ranking the district, the school board and Superintendent Heidi Ondek, who has announced she is resigning at the end of the school year.

The surveyor told residents if the $90 million referendum would pass they would pay $4.50 more per week, or $18 more per month, in real estate taxes on a $100,000 assessed property value.

Conigliaro said the $90 million figure was used in the survey, as board members have not yet decided the dollar amount for the possible referendum.

The survey also gave residents statements that, “assuming they are true,” questioned if they would change the voter's decision on the referendum.

Those statements included: “The school board and many staff and teachers live in our school district and are doing what they can to keep costs down for all of us.”

Other statements were read to residents that, “assuming it is true,” residents had to decide if they were convinced “to support the proposition we are discussing.”

Examples of that included: “Our old high school building is hurting our community. We're losing students and families looking for modern facilities to other school districts, putting our community at a disadvantage. Building a new high school will ensure a level playing field for our kids and attract families to our community.”

School officials have said a new high school is needed, as the current building, constructed in 1926, limits instructional programming. The school has frequent facilities problems with pipes breaking and dehumidifiers placed in several classrooms to deal with past mold problems.

Renovations to the current school on Beaver Street in Leetsdale have been ruled out, as has construction of a new building on the Leetsdale site.

The district closed on the purchase of a 128-acre property from Three Rivers Trust for $7.5 million in January with the intent of building a new high school on the land.

The district borrowed $9.9 million in 2017 related to the purchase.

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