Ottawa Ottawa school board members took a big step Monday toward building a new middle school.
Board members voted, 5-2, to junk plans to renovate the three-story middle school built in two phases, one in 1917 and the other in 1927.
Jack Maxwell, a board member who voted with the majority, said renovation would be far too costly.
"The simple reality is that the existing building can't be modified to meet our educational needs" within acceptable spending limits, Maxwell said.
In April, Ottawa voters rejected a bond issue that included more than $9 million for construction of a new middle school. The defeat led to a round of discussion about renovation, culminating in a study session last week.
"I appreciate what the board has done to receive more information," said Sam Sheldon, who made renovation a central part of his successful school board campaign. "But I learned no new information that would cause me to change my position on supporting renovation."
Sheldon said an architect's cost estimate of $5.5 million for the renovation -- minus a proposed media center -- was well in line with his original projections.
"I don't think I could, in good faith, support a new middle school when no new information has been supplied ... " he said.
But Maxwell said proposed renovations were merely cosmetic and didn't address the district's educational needs. He said a modern middle school required a much more open, flexible design than the current school's traditional setup.
Furthermore, he said, the current building has virtually no space for outdoor activity areas, such as a track or a sports field.