New Bethel school, stadium under construction are on track, under budget


By Jordan Green

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BETHEL TOWNSHIP — Two major projects in the Bethel School District are underway and on track to be completed by the fall of 2023. The projects are a new kindergarten through fifth grade (K-5) elementary school that will have the capacity to house 1,000 students, as well as a 2,000-seat athletic stadium designed to host sporting and community events.

Bethel School District is the fourth fastest growing district in the state of Ohio. Eight years ago, there were roughly 800 students in the district. Now, there are over 1,800. With that kind of drastic growth, attributed to new housing developments in the area, comes a need for new facilities.

A new high school was constructed in 2017, and in 2020, the district began to hold community forums of what was next. The public decided on a new K-5 elementary school preferably close to the existing building, which housed K-12. As the current K-5 portion of the building was nearly 100 years old, the district agreed. They designated land, purchased 20 years ago and directly to the north of the current school, as the location of their new building.

Now in year three of the project, major headway on its construction has been made. All the infrastructure is now in place and, “in the next week or so with the weather clearing … actual formation of the building will start,” said Superintendent Justin Firks.

That process will complete by mid-summer of 2023. It will then open in the fall for the start of the 2023-2024 school year. “As of right now, we are on time and under budget,” said Firks.

The new school will utilize state of the art technology in every classroom, provide extended learning spaces for small group and enrichment activities, and hold a cafetorium for lunches and performances.

The biggest benefit will be the ability to house more students as the district continues to grow.

The new athletic stadium, also on track to open for the fall of 2023, has long been a priority for the district, said Firks. The current stadium, built in the 1970s, has a limited capacity of 850 spectators and an outdated track. The project plans to more than double spectator capacity to 2,000 seats and include an eight-lane track along with a new, turf field. In addition to hosting soccer, football, and track and field events, the district plans to utilize the stadium for community gatherings and OHSAA tournaments.

As of now, the cost sits at $28 million for the new school and $4.5 million for the athletic stadium for a total of $32.5 million. Funding for these projects comes at no extra cost to the taxpayers.

As housing development projects began to grow in the Bethel Township area, so did tax revenue for the school district. The Board of Education voted to set aside 30% of that income for a construction fund. In addition, Bethel Schools auctioned off Certificates of Participation (COPs) to raise money. This allowed the district to fund the entirety of the $32.5 million projects without increases in taxes or issuing bonds.

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