Sykes suggests TPS relocate central offices DowntownWritten by John P. McCartney | | email@example.com
If Board of Education (BOE) member Larry Sykes has his way, Toledo Public Schools (TPS) will accept Recommendation 6-6 of Evergreen Solutions’ performance audit by relocating the district’s central office staff and functions to the heart of the city.
“I would love it if we could be Downtown,” Sykes told those who attended the Ohio School Facilities Commission (OSFC) Building Committee meeting on April 17.
Sykes suggested James Gant, TPS chief business manager, have a conversation with Lucas County officials as well as City of Toledo officials to see if either entity owns a building or property in the Downtown area that it might be interested in swapping with TPS.
“We should put our feelers out,” Sykes said. “You’d be amazed at the properties the city and county have that we may be able to utilize. I understand time is of the essence, but you don’t jump out of the fire into the fire.”
Sykes also suggested Gant look into the Owens Corning Building, which Sykes said “is probably half-empty.” Owens Corning is located at the intersection of Washington and Summit streets.
On its website, Hines, a privately owned, international real estate firm, reports that the building currently has one major tenant and 370,816 square feet of net rentable office space.
Sykes also suggested Gant inquire into whether ProMedica Toledo Hospital or the University of Toledo have any space available.
“What about Scott Park?” Sykes asked Gant. “They’ve just about abandoned that facility.”
However, UT’s Scott Park campus is not located in Downtown Toledo, but at 2225 Nebraska Ave.
Sykes’ suggestion came in response to a discussion between fellow BOE member Lisa Sobecki and Gant about whether to invest approximately $15,000 into temporarily cooling the Thurgood Marshall Building for the summer months or to move offices to the Summit Annex, 1530 N. Superior St., before June.
“I’ve thought about [moving Downtown] myself, but I don’t think I’ve ever heard that from any other board member,” Gant said after the meeting.
Gant said moving out of the Thurgood Marshall Building “is the best decision in the long term. We need to be in a more efficient building and utilize the space more effectively.”
However, Gant said he had a more immediate concern.
“Short term, my problem is my HVAC system is not working,” Gant said. “I have to have temporary cooling or I’m going to be murdered around here. Short-term is just temporary cooling. What I’m suggesting is it may be better to pay for temporary cooling than waste $250,000 in replacing a chiller when we know we need to move.”
Gant said he did not think a move to the Summit Annex would be viable because it would mean the loss of about 20,000 square feet of space, which he said is one-third the space available in the Thurgood Marshall Building.
However, Evergreen Solution’s performance audit reported that the current central office staff has about 69 percent more square feet per person than most school districts and 170 percent more than optimum for an office building.
Sobecki said her biggest concern with moving into the Summit Annex was the cost of “quite a few renovations” that will be needed.
Gant spoke of the cost benefits of moving TPS’ central office administration to the former DeVilbiss High School, 3301 Upton Ave., which houses the Toledo technology Academy.
“We’re already utilizing that site so the cost of operation will be a lot less,” Gant said. “I’m already operating it right now, so we’re talking about maybe only cooling additional rooms. That is appealing to some respect.”
However, the committee dismissed the idea as impractical for three reasons:
- The possibility of more student programs being scheduled at the former high school within 12 months.
- What Sykes called “a very serious parking issue. There is only one way in and one way out. More traffic would create congestion.”
- Sykes’ concern that “the mixing of adult and student populations could be problematic.”
Sykes closed the meeting by telling the group he was attending his first OSFC Building Committee meeting of the school year to ask the committee “to please look into three things I have had brought to my attention recently.”
Sykes said the Old West End Academy’s computer lab’s design is so archaic that students sit at computers facing the walls, which prevents teachers from using the district’s technology to instruct the classroom of students.
Sykes also said the 200-plus unused phone lines identified in a performance audit as costing TPS at least $45,600 a year need the committee’s immediate attention.
Finally, he said, the one boys’ bathroom at Jones Elementary, located on the first floor by the lunchroom, has only one stall and one urinal.
“I’ve been over there on a Friday night where they have as many as 200 parents there for dodge ball with their young kids,” Sykes said. “And there’s a line outside that latrine like they were drinking beer.”