The Ohio School Facilities Commission approved a template grant agreement Thursday for the upcoming award of grants for high-performing charter schools. 

Created in biennial budget bill HB64 (R. Smith), the grant program can reimburse eligible schools for projects that increase seats in effective schools, serve unmet needs and show innovation. The commission previously approved guidelines governing the grant program. 

Jeff Westhoven, chief of facility and program services for the commission, said staff used a template developed for cultural facilities projects two years ago as a starting point. 

The program requires a 50 percent local match and a covenant to ensure buildings constructed or modified under the program must be dedicated to education purposes for at least 10 years following completion of the project. The template agreement spells out potential remedies for cases in which a school breaks that covenant, such as by becoming insolvent. 

Westhoven said he anticipates applications opening for a 90-day period starting some time in March, with final approval of grants by the Controlling Board around October or November.

Rep. Dan Ramos (D-Lorain) asked what power the commission would have to encourage a building owner to find a new tenant quickly if the original school moved or closed. Westhoven said it would be in the business interest of the owner to secure a new school as a tenant, because the covenant would restrict leasing the building to anyone else. Ramos responded by noting gas stations and grocery stores will sometimes move without breaking their leases to ensure competitors can’t occupy their former premises. “Capitalism can move both ways. Something to consider,” he said.

During his report, the new executive director of the OSFC and Ohio Facilities Construction Commission (OFCC), David Williamson, said the commissions have begun a strategic planning process. Division chiefs identified a total of 158 tasks needed to achieve future goals and improve the level of service provided by the commissions, then staff worked to align that to a plan across three budget cycles. The plan is still being finalized, he said.