A piece of Coventry Local Schools' past has turned into a piece of the district's present - and future.

A piece of Coventry Local Schools' past has turned into a piece of the district's present - and future.

Three years ago, Lakeview Elementary closed as the district began a restructuring of its buildings and the respective grade levels each housed. The district held a special ceremony in which former students, staffers and community members said farewell to their old school.

Summit County Educational Services (SCES) took over the building and it seemed the Lakeview era was a thing of the past for Coventry. That changed last year when SCES asked to get out of its contract and the scattershot arrangement of the district's own administrative staff became a concern. As part of the renovation project surrounding the district's new high school, the spaces housing staff members at the district's junior high were eliminated and a new base of operations was needed.

"Last year, our central offices were scattered through three buildings - Coventry Middle School, Coventry High School and Erwine Intermediate School, so we had the whole central office spread throughout the district," Superintendent Rusty Chaboudy said.

Chaboudy and the school board began discussing a plan to unite all 18 employees in a single place. The initial plan called for using modular units currently located at Turkeyfoot Elementary and assembling them on the grounds of the district's new high school, which is still in the planning stages. District officials estimated that the eventual cost to convert those units into permanent offices would be about $500,000.

That plan had several possible hiccups, including the high cost of the new arrangement and the possibility that delays in the construction process could force to the administrative offices needing to extend their stay in whatever temporary location they found in the interim. In a search of available properties in the area, the average cost was $3,800-$4,500 a month, according to Chaboudy.

When SCES came to district officials asking out of its contract, the request provided an unexpected opportunity, according to Chaboudy.

"Initially, when we were trying to pass the bond issue, one of the thoughts was that the central offices would have to be renovated and we would have to find a space for everyone," Chaboudy said. "At that time, we were leasing the Lakeview building to Summit County Educational Service Center. The (bond) issue didn't pass until May and at the same time, they came to us and asked to get out of their lease. We had a building right here, we already owned the building, we had wiring for computers and telephones and so it was a huge advantage to us to be able to move into this building."

Using the Lakeview building was appealing to district officials because as a former school - albeit a dated one nearly a century old - it was wired for the  technological needs its new residents would have. Moving in was a largely staff-driven process, according to Chaboudy, with employees bringing many items to decorate their new offices from home.

Old classrooms became offices for technology directors, treasurers and assistant superintendents. Closets that once housed backpacks, art supplies and glue sticks became storage for files and office supplies. Some reminders of the building's former use remain, including an old wooden sign that read, "Boiler room," on the building's lower level where several offices are located.

All of Lakeview's rooms are in use by administrative staff members, although some are large enough to accommodate a second occupant if needed. Even two small spaces on the upper level that measure less than 90 square feet have been converted into office space. The building is also home to a large meeting room - the school's former library - where board meetings and other gatherings are held.

New carpet on many of the floors and a new coat of paint provide a small covering for the building's history. Roof repairs are also in progress in order to make sure the building remains in useable condition for the future. The original cost of renovating the building was estimated at $55,000-$60,000, according to figures provided by the district, but the final cost ended up being nearly $100,000.

That amount falls within the range district officials estimated they would have to pay for two years in any rental space while waiting for the new high school to be completed.

The building has undergone minor changes, but its creaking wooden floors in the classrooms-turned-offices and the small, outdated gym that is still used for youth sports serve as a reminder that Lakeview has been a part of the district for nine decades and remains a piece of the equation in 2014.

Reach Andy at 330-580-8396 or andy.harris@thesuburbanite.com.
On Twitter: @aharrisBURB