Friday, October 24, 2008

An Update on Bradley

As the crow flies, our home sits 600 yards from the main building of the Bradley High School campus. It is clearly visible from our bedroom windows, and during the early days of construction, our place was covered with the dust raised by the ground preparation process. We have a new neighbor, and it's going to change everything about what it's like to live here.

That's okay with us, although I'm sure I'm not speaking for all of our good friends and neighbors who live in our little corner of the county because of the solitude and beauty of the farm fields, woods and streams. We'll miss that too, but we're at that stage of life when we're ready to downsize from five acres and a family-sized house to something more appropriate for empty-nesters. When the real estate market recovers, we expect that our place will be pretty attractive to a family with school age kids, as we have an elementary school (Brown), a high school (Bradley), and potentially a new middle school all within walking distance.

The level of traffic is certainly going to change, especially if high school busing is eliminated. There will be hundreds of high school kids tearing along Roberts and Walker Rd on their way to and from school. The intersection of Roberts and Walker has already been rebuilt in anticipation of higher traffic volumes. Supposedly there are two roundabouts to be built, one at the intersection of Alton-Darby and Roberts, and other on Roberts a little west of Alton-Darby, with a connector between that eliminates the 'jog' of Roberts Rd at Alton-Darby. Part of the reasoning is supposedly that this will calm the traffic destined for the high school.

I doubt it. It will still be a mile from the Roberts Rd roundabout to Walker Rd, more than enough distance to build up a nice head of steam – just as you thunder past our driveway. Should be quite a revenue opportunity for the Franklin County Sheriff's department. I expect they'll be able to stay quite busy passing out speeding tickets and responding to accidents.

Anyway, living so close to Bradley, I have a chance to observe the progress pretty easily. The outside looks pretty much done, although I know there is a ton of work to do inside. I'm pretty impressed by some of what I see, but am concerned by others.

On the good side, the stormwater drainage system looks quite impressive (this is a huge deal out here where the land readily floods after a big rain). There is a large retention area to the east of the main building that looks like it could hold a great deal of water. It also has snaking water channel cut through it, which I think serves to create habitats for marsh flora and fauna, which was the native state of the land out here in Brown Twp. The parking lots are designed to drain water into similar ditches along the edges of the lots, rather than the typical design of sloping the asphalt toward center drains that flow to retention ponds.

My disappointment was what I saw in the athletic complex. I really don't what else to call it. There is the football stadium, which looks to be identical to the stadiums at Davidson and Darby. But next to it are not one, but two baseball fields, both equipped with concrete block dugouts and electric scoreboards. North of these there are two more softball fields. This seems extravagant, so I cranked up Google Earth to see what we have at the other two high schools.


  • Football stadium with track
  • Football field with track (Weaver)
  • Four more fields large enough for football, soccer, lacrosse
  • Six baseball diamonds
  • 15 tennis courts


  • Football stadium with track
  • Two more football fields and tracks (Heritage/Weaver)
  • Six more fields large enough for football, etc
  • Six baseball diamonds
  • 15 tennis courts


  • Football stadium with track
  • Unknown number of fields for football, etc
  • Four baseball fields
  • 10 tennis courts

So I guess it turns out that the Bradley facility is no more extravagant than our two other high/middle campuses. Does that mean that if and when a middle school is built on the Bradley campus, the expectation is that it will have its own football field with a track, plus more two more baseball diamonds and five more tennis courts?

How did we get ourselves to this situation? When you look at one of these campuses on Google Earth, you realize that half of the real estate is taken up with athletic fields. I realize that the cost/sqft of these fields is nowhere near that of the school building itself. But they do represent an ongoing maintenance expense. Again, small potatoes compared to the cost of maintaining a building, but it's more. It seems like there's always more.

I've written before that our community has champagne tastes and a beer budget. It permeates everything that we do it seems, and the extent of these athletic facilities are one more example. I sat in the stands at the recent Hilliard Marching Band Invitational, where bands from all around our region are invited to perform. I repeatedly heard folks from other districts talk about what a 'palace' Darby High School was. They were flabbergasted to hear that we had two more high school campuses just like it.

I wonder how much of the funding capacity of our community we've tied up in our buildings and facilities – capacity that could have been applied to operating expenses instead. You know we get no state assistance on building construction; it all comes out of the pockets of local residents and businesses.

With some effective long range planning, we could have seen this coming. While it is certainly appropriate to have facilities for outdoor physical education at each high school, perhaps we could have purchased a hunk of land and created a common varsity athletic complex. It would be difficult, but not impossible to schedule around such a shared facility. After all, the Darby/Davidson football game was held on Thursday night to accommodate scheduling conflicts at Crew Stadium (why did we play over there?).

A wise person once said that we can't drive into the future looking in the rear view mirror. We've got to take a fresh look at this stuff with realistic expectations.


  1. Great Paul post. The district's "Richey Rich" mentality has got to stop. It reminds me of Wall Street greed.

    I think the watershed moment for the district was the decision to build that high school, come heck or high water. At that point it became clear to me that the HSD was more concerned about building buildings than in saving teacher positions. Instead of going the conservative route and enlarging existing buildings, they went for the whole shebang and they're going to cost themselves a lot of what really matters: human capital in the form of teachers.

    I don't think most voters make big distinctions between operating levies or building levies or new levies. They see the HSD wants more money, that's all. So every time you come back for more it makes people more resistant. I would be really surprised if this levy passes due to the 3rd high school request being fresh in people's minds and because of the economy.

  2. The bond issue passed in spite of warnings that it would lead to a levy for the operating expenses. Anyone who voted For the bond and is now going to vote No on the levy has talked out of both sides of their mouths. Those voters should have held the Board to their earlier commitment to expanding the present buildings. And they should have held Cheryl Ryan accountable for switching her support after running on an "expand the present schools" platform. I e-mailed her voicing my disappointment after she switched her position and received no response. Of course, she resigned her position fairly soon after taking office, which just gave the Board the opportunity to appoint another member who would follow their lead.

    As far as the grandeur of the facility, it HAS to be just as nice as the present schools or those who will be attending would raise the hue and cry. The time to question THAT would have been when the bond issue was placed on the ballot; I'm pretty sure it was assumed that the school would be pretty much a carbon copy, as was Darby to Davidson.

    I would also note that now that student population growth is next to nil, all three high schools will be way under capacity for quite some time, at least once Bradley is fully up and running with 4 classes. Anyone have any numbers on
    how many students each of the present schools will be losing?

  3. Hillirdite:

    I don't have the exact enrollment numbers, but my understanding is that generally the lower grades are larger than the upper grades, and so the high school population is expected to grow organically for several years.

    In rough numbers, the current high school population of 4,400 will be distributed across three buildings each with a capacity of 1,800 students. Again in rough numbers, that's 1,500 kids/bldg, leaving capacity in each building of 300 kids, or 1,200 district-wide.

    The freeze-up of the housing market will leave the high schools underutilized for some time. But we all know that once the housing market recovers and Homewood et al starts building the 2,000 homes they're planning on the parcels surrounding Bradley, we'll once again be arguing how to house all those kids.

    At some point the Hilliard community will mature, and the synchronicity of development in the past decade will result it lots of empty-nesters, and potentially a decline in school age population.

    Then our challenge will be what to do with all these buildings...

  4. The estimate that the district had for 09/10 was a little over 4600 students. With three buildings at 1800 a piece, HCSD would be about 800 under capacity (total). I believe that some of those students would be enrolled at Tolles and counted at their home school.

  5. Haven't some posters discussed how HGSA/Optimist pay for maintenance on fields at the high schools? If that is the case, who cares how many fields there are?

  6. Anon, the land cost comes out of bond issue dollars. Perhaps with slightly less acerage designated, the dollars spent on the land acquistion could have gone to other capital projects.

    At times it would appear that there are some challenges in the way we view our expenditures.
    Could we be stretching our capital dollars more ? Can slight adjustments be made in our compensation contracts ?

    It would send the electorate a message that every single dollar and expenditure is being maximized.