Reopening Plan
Reopening Firelands 2020: Reopening information can be found on the Parent Tab (top right corner) of this webpage or at:
community & alumni
One Campus, One Community

Thank you!

It is a wonderful time for the Firelands community. We have such a bright future ahead of us and we have all of you to thank.

Words cannot express how appreciative we are. For generations to come the children of Firelands will benefit from your generosity.

Visit the Construction Update tab for news on the the building project. 

Thank you for your support.

Looking forward to One Campus, One Community.

Our commitment to preparing our youngest citizens for their futures starts with providing them a safe and secure learning environment. We cannot sit back and ignore the deteriorating facilities and their accompanying educational and financial challenges. Check back over the next few months as we take you on a virtual tour of our facilities. Learn the facts and see the photos detailing the challenges our teachers, staff, and students face on a day-to-day basis.
Press Release
Read the Press Release regarding the Bond Issue here.
Some Areas of Concern

To find out if you are registered to vote or your voter registration is up to date, click here.  

Frequently Asked Questions about the Firelands Local School Issue on the November Ballot

      What is on the ballot this November for Firelands Local Schools?

In July, the Firelands Board of Education voted unanimously to place a 4.28 mill bond issue on the ballot to build a new high school and repurpose the current high school as the middle school. The bond issue will be for 36 years.

We can no longer sit back and ignore the urgent need to address our facilities. Our middle school is 108 years old and continually causes educational and financial challenges. While challenges in our other facilities are not far behind, we know we have to start by addressing our greatest needs first and that’s why we have put forth this plan.

This bond levy will be the first phase of a two-phase Master Plan to update all of our facilities. Voters will vote on each phase of the plan, years apart, to ensure the District remains accountable and transparent with residents.

What does the proposed bond issue call for?

The bond issue calls for the construction of a new 9-12 high school. It will be built on district owned property and will be connected to the current high school located on Vermilion Road in Henrietta Township. 

Once completed our current high school will transition to a middle school, educating students in grades 6-8 and will also serve as our Board of Education. South Amherst Middle School and the Board of Education annex located behind the middle school will close once the new building is completed.

The new building will serve as the main entrance and administrative area for all students in grades 6-12 allowing us to enhance the safety and security of the existing high school. In addition, a central kitchen and cafeteria will be constructed to maximize resources and serve all middle and high school students. The building project does not include a new stadium, fieldhouse or auditorium. Rather its focus is on bringing our teaching and learning environments up-to-date and serving the needs of our students through enhancing classroom space for academics, arts, vocational agriculture, and physical education

normal'>What is the timeline for completion?

With passage in November, site work will begin in late 2019 with construction continuing through early summer of 2021. Design work will begin soon after passage. The plan is to have the new high school open for the start of 2021-2022 school year.

How did Firelands Local Schools arrive at this plan?

A 40-person group composed of community residents, teachers, staff, and parents recommended the first phase of this plan to the Board of Education after a lengthy review process. The Building Advisory Committee (BAC), as it was called, was charged with reviewing extensive stakeholder feedback and data, and then recommending a plan. It assessed financial information, our school buildings’ conditions, and the state’s recommendation over five meetings in the Fall/Winter of 2017.

Ultimately, this group brainstormed building plan options, and then voted overwhelmingly to recommend addressing the District’s greatest needs first – building a new high school and moving students out of SAMS into the current high school.

How much will this issue cost taxpayers?

The issue will cost $12.48 per month per $100,000 of home value. Firelands Local School District has the lowest property taxes in Lorain County and overall is the lowest taxed district when also considering school district income taxes.

Will a permanent improvement levy be included to help maintain the public’s investment?

Yes. Maintaining our schools is a top-priority and a requirement. School districts that participate in state-assisted school construction projects are required to provide the equivalent of 0.5 mills for the purpose of maintaining the completed school facilities. The 0.5 mill permanent improvement levy is included in the 4.28 mill issue approved by the Board of Education.

The other important point that relates to this is a state law on the books, HB 920, passed in 1976, which prevents school districts and other local governments from receiving an increase in tax revenue as a result of increased valuation of property. This means that any voter-approved levies on the books cannot collect more than what was originally authorized by voters. As a result, when property values are increased, any voted millage will be reduced to a millage amount that will only bring in the same amount of revenue that was approved by the voters and each tax payer will pay a lower “effective” tax rate. That’s why school districts across Ohio must continue to come back to voters with new or replacement levies, if an increase in revenue is a necessity.   

What will happen to South Amherst Middle School? 

 The District and Village of South Amherst have met and plan to continue to meet to determine how the property will be used in the future. But it is important to understand, our District’s priority is educating our students in a safe and productive learning environment. If the bond issue passes, the District is prepared to divest itself from the property. Accordingly, we have allocated funding within the Master Plan to abate and demolish the building, as it is not our hope to leave an abandoned building in one of our communities. However, if there is an interest by the Village or some other entity to purchase the property and fund the $300,000 to replace the sewage plant, then we are more than willing to work with them to help make that happen. 

 What happens if the issue does not pass?

In the short term, the District will need to spend $300,000 to replace the sewage plant at South Amherst Middle School before the start of the 2019-2020 school year or will need to consider other options for educating our student population at SAMS.

What impact will the property tax reappraisal have on my property taxes?

It’s important to first note that the property tax reappraisal is a good sign for our district’s economy and the value of our communities. But there is not an easy response to this question as a property value increase of a certain percentage does not automatically translate to a corresponding increase in property taxes.

The easiest response regarding the Firelands bond issue is that if it is approved by voters this November, property owners in the district will owe about an additional $12.48 a month per $100,000 of home value based on the current assessed value of their home. A property owner’s assessed value or taxable valuation is 35% of the market value of their home. For example, a home valued at $100,000 would be assessed at $35,000 for tax purposes. We’ve done the math for you to come up with the monthly cost for a home valued at $100,000, but visit your county auditor’s website to determine the total assessed value of your home (Erie County: ; Lorain County:

The other important point that relates to this is a state law on the books, HB 920, passed in 1976, which prevents school districts and other local governments from receiving an increase in tax revenue as a result of increased valuation of property. This means that any voter-approved levies on the books cannot collect more than what was originally authorized by voters. As a result, when property values are increased, any voted millage will be reduced to a millage amount that will only bring in the same amount of revenue that was approved by the voters and each tax payer will pay a lower “effective” tax rate. That’s why school districts across Ohio must continue to come back to voters with new or replacement levies, if an increase in revenue is a necessity

Why can’t the District just renovate the buildings?

At no cost to the district, the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission (OFCC) assessed all of the buildings. If the cost to renovate a facility to state minimum standards is two-thirds the cost to build new, the state recommends building new and will not contribute toward renovations. All of our facilities have exceeded that threshold and the state recommended constructing all new facilities.

After listening to our community and working with the Building Advisory Committee, the November ballot issue is the first phase of our Master Plan and will start off by addressing our greatest needs first - building a new high school and moving our middle school students into the existing high school.  

Why are the facilities in disrepair – did the district neglect them?

No, in fact, the opposite is true. School buildings do not reach the 108-year, 64-year mark and 57-year mark without careful attention to proper maintenance and upkeep. These buildings have, by far, surpassed the normal life expectancy of school buildings in Ohio.

The buildings have served the community and our students well for decades. Our maintenance staff continues to do their best to keep our schools safe and in the best shape possible. This includes spending thousands of dollars each year on basic and Band-Aid repairs to expensive, outdated systems that no longer function efficiently. However, we have reached the point where repairs are no longer enough.

How much operating money will be saved if the Firelands community supports new buildings?

The district will realize its biggest savings from the end to emergency building repairs. New facilities will allow the district to focus dollars on instruction - instead of emergency building repairs - and provide a safe and productive learning environment for our students. New energy efficient buildings will certainly save on utilities costs, such as water and electricity, however, the cost to air condition these buildings will likely neutralize some of these savings.

In addition, 85% or more of our operating dollars are allocated toward personnel costs. Enrollment is projected to stay flat with a minimal decrease over the course of the next decade, and therefore we will continue to need to support the same number of teachers and staff to support our student body.

What is Firelands enrollment?

A comprehensive enrollment projection report was completed in 2014 by Future Think. Over the next decade, Firelands Schools’ enrollment is projected to decrease by approximately 5%.

What is Firelands Schools’ state share and how does the state determine the amount?

Firelands Schools current state share is 19%. This means that the state of Ohio will pay 19% of the total cost of the construction project, or $5,297,765, not including any locally funded initiatives or additional contingencies, with the remaining amount paid for with local funding. This state share is locked in for Firelands’ full Master Plan (Phase 1 and Phase 2), leaving no money on the table for the schools going forward.

The state share is based on Firelands Schools’ eligibility ranking. Districts are ranked in terms of need from one to 611 each year by the Ohio Department of Education. Their formula is based on a three-year adjusted valuation per pupil (which relates largely to property wealth). The lowest wealth districts are served first. Firelands Schools is currently ranked 490th.

Does the state share decrease when the district loses a levy?

No. The state share is based on an annual calculation performed by the Ohio Department of Education. If a school district fails to pass a bond issue, it does not affect the state share.

Is Firelands Local Schools fiscally responsible?

Yes, Firelands is in a solid financial position and will remain so even if a bond issue is passed. The district has been diligent in making necessary cuts and maximizing its budget to meet the educational needs of its students. While there is an operating levy renewal that will need to be passed in 2020 to maintain our current level of funding, this levy will not increase taxes. Additionally, Firelands has the 2nd lowest property taxes per $100K home valuation in Lorain County, but provides our students with a great education.

How much revenue does Firelands Local Schools receive from open enrollment?

While the number of open enrollment students fluctuates year by year, the district continuously receives a net gain from this program. Since the 2012-2013 school year, Firelands Schools have received a total of over $2 million in revenue from the funds that follow open enrollment students to our district.

What about the Village income tax lost from loss of the income? How will that be replaced by the Village?

This question is best answered by the Village of South Amherst. Staff at South Amherst Middle School and at The Firelands Board of Education pay approximately $28,000 in income tax annually to the Village of South Amherst. It is important to consider that when the bond issue passes, staff and students will remain in South Amherst through at least the 2020-2021 school year, meaning there will not be an immediate loss in income.

What can be done to ensure constructions costs are controlled?

The District will work closely with the architect and construction manager to ensure the project is on time and in budget through pre-negotiated guaranteed maximum pricing. Furthermore, the District’s agreement with the OFCC provides additional assurances to protect taxpayers’ investments. More information on Ohio Construction Reform can be found here.

How much income will be generated from the Nexus Pipeline?

A report published by Public Finance Resources, Inc. based on information provided by Spectra Energy and the 2015 property tax rates provided by the Ohio Department of Taxation, indicates the district will receive approximately $1.2 million in the first tax year after the pipeline is placed into operation; however, this figure decreases by approximately $42,000 each year.

To date, the Lorain County Auditor has not provided our district any information to substantiate this number and to date the district has not received any money from Nexus. It is important to understand that even if the district does receive this additional property tax revenue, it will only mean additional revenue for the district for around 3 years. After that, the increase in property values will be taken into account for calculating state funding, and those funds received by the state will be cut, eliminating any additional revenues received by the district.

The good news for our tax payers is that any increase in property values from the pipeline will increase the overall property valuation in our district. This will ultimately lower the millage for the bond issue as we cannot collect more money than proposed by the ballot issue.


When is the issue on the Ballot?

The Firelands Local Schools issue is on the November 6, 2018 ballot. On Election Day, polls are open from 6:30 AM to 7:30 PM.

Early voting in-person and by mail begins on Wednesday, October 10, 2018.

To early vote in-person, visit your county board of elections office during the times listed below:


Erie County Board of Elections                                                

2900 Columbus Ave.                                                                      

Room 101                                                                                           

Sandusky, OH 44870


       Lorain County Board of Elections

      1985 North Ridge Rd. East

       Lorain, OH  44055 

 In-person Early Voting Hours:

October 10 - October 12, 2018            8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.

October 15 - October 19, 2018            8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.

October 22 - October 26, 2018            8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.

October 27, 2018                                8:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.

October 29 - November 2, 2018          8:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.

November 3, 2018                                8:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.

November 4, 2018                              1:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.

November 5, 2018                               8:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.

To learn more about voting early by mail, click here.

Building Advisory Committee

Our thanks to each member of the Building Advisory Commitee (BAC). This committee represented a broad cross-section of our district. The BAC met to thoroughly assess the needs of our facilities and looked at many areas including:

  • Enrollment studies, demographics, and property values
  • The Ohio Facilities Construction Commission (OFCC) assessments detailing exact issues with each of the facilities and the costs associated
  • District facilities
  • Results of listening sessions with teachers, staff, parents, and residents
  • Results of a statistically-valid telephone survey of our community
  • And lastly, recommending a long-term facility solution to the school board 
The input and feedback offered by our stakeholders and community members was essential in determining the true needs of our district. The BAC was in agreement that we cannot sit back and do nothing.
If you have questions about our faciliteis, please contact,  District Superintendent, Mike Von Gunten at 440-965-5821. 


Meeting Information
During the meetings, we gave a brief background of how we got to this point, and then took some time to hear from you. Attached are group responses to the following questions:
10-12-2017  Meeting Topics:
  •  Enrollment
  • Building Assessments
10-26-2017  Meeting Topics:
  • Overview of community reseach results
  • Facilities - needs and finances 

District Map 

BAC Meeting 3 PPT  Handout.pdf



  Renovation estimate for SAMS is $ 13 million

  Replacement cost for SAMS is $ 14.8 million - replacement cost recalculated in November 2017





Please click here to see the Powerpoint from this meeting. 

Items discussed include:

  •  Findings for in-depth interviews
  •  Online surbey results
  •  Building conditions questions and answers
  • Scenarios 1-8 

    A downloadable FHS District map is available here. 


    December 18, 2017

     Please click here to see the powerpoint from this meeting.

    Please click here to see what plan is recommended by the BAC. Scenario 9 - Variation 2 recieved the most support.

     Thank you to everyone who has been involved in the Building Advisory Committee process throughout the past several months. Your participation, thoughtful questions, and feedback were a critical part of this process. We value your commitment to the district and our students, and are thankful for your continued support. 


    Building Assessments

    Enrollment Reports

    Get Involved!
    Comunity Meetings:
    October 2, 2018  at SAMS 
    6:30 pm 
    October 4, 2018 at SAMS
    6:30 pm 
    Building Advisory Committee 
    December 13, 2017 in the Band Room at FHS
    7:00 pm
    Building Advisory Committee
    September 28, 2017 at FHS
    7:00 pm
    Listening Session
    October 11, 2017 at FHS
    6:00 p.m. 
    Building Advisory Committee
    October 12, 2017 at SAMS
     7:00 pm 
    Building Advisory Committee
    October 26, 2017 at SAMS
    7:00 pm 
    Building Advisory Committee 
    November 30, 2017 at SAMS
    7:00 pm 
    Building Tours
    On November 1, 2018 at 6 pm the FES PTG will hold a Get the Facts Free Chili Dinner at SAMS.
    Come for dinner, information on the Bond Issue and a Building Tour.
    Join us for one of three opportunities to tour our buildings to learn more about the structural and systemic facilities issues:
    •         Firelands High School -November 2, 2017 6:30 PM
    •         South Amherst Middle School–November 9, 2017 6:30 PM
    •         Firelands Elementary School– November 16, 2017 6:30 PM 
    Past Projects
    Firelands Local Schools
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