DILLONVALE, Ohio — Buckeye Local Schools are reaping the benefits of a recent $1 million windfall in oil and gas royalties with plans to improve district buildings and education over the next school year.

Officials received a check totaling $1,008,572 from Gulfport Energy this past month, which is the first one Buckeye Local has received since the energy company began drilling on district-owned property, and the revenue is based upon production from September through December of 2022. Board members recently met with their attorney, Lawrence Piergallini, about the funding and also discussed ideas for projects to better serve staff and students.

Among impending plans are a $200,000 upgrade of the sewer plant at Buckeye Local High School and the purchase of a new elementary English/Language Arts (ELA) curriculum for an estimated $383,000, but the overall goal is to maintain sustainability by improving cost efficiency.

 “I’m thrilled Buckeye Local can get some projects done and not spend general fund money,” said Superintendent Scott Celestin.

Leaders agreed that the amount was not a regular occurrence, but the royalties were added to the district’s permanent improvement fund for upgrades and other educational needs. District Treasurer Merri Matthews was excited by the news and said the royalties are among the latest the district received following a payment from Ascent Resources. She continued that Ascent royalties yielded a total of $279,000 for district coffers from July 1 to this past February and leaders will review necessary improvements at each school building.

“This funding is not always guaranteed, so we will save it for more permanent projects,” Matthews added. “Gas and oil royalties have gone up and our plan is to prioritize the needs of the district. We’ve asked each building to give us a wish list and we’ll take care of what we can.”

A number of projects are coming down the pipeline at BLHS with existing funds, including an upgrade of the HVAC unit and restrooms, replacement of the pyramid roof above the commons area as well as the sewer plant update. The dome has already been replaced at the building while the parking lot and exterior lights have breen improved. Additionally, the district office upgraded its heating and air conditioning equipment.

“We did purchase a new dump truck, pickup truck and van for the maintenance fleet this year,” Matthews added, saying a mixture of federal money, general funds, gas and oil revenue and permanent improvement funds were being used in the projects.

Maintenance Director Tony Panepucci noted that the largest endeavor would be upgrading the sewer plant, which is original to the high school.

“There have been significant upgrades to the sewer plant, and this actually makes it more functional to the current population at the school,” Panepucci said. “We’re essentially creating two plants that could run back and forth or switch over if maintenance is needed. The sewer plant is unique to the district because we are the only one that has it. This improvement will help a lot in the long run.”

He added that the commons roof project would also quell issues in the future.

“It’s a new roof and the original was 32 years old. We’ve had a few leaks, so that work will help out tremendously to prevent further damage.”

Panepucci continued that other buildings could also be seeing updates on the horizon.

“There are things on everybody’s wish list,” he commented. “It’s going to be a busy summer districtwide.”

Also on the list is the purchase of a new ELA curriculum for grades K-5. The move will cost $383,000 and adds some new learning tools for the first time since 2011. District Director of Special Education, Preschool and Student Services Julie Packer said a committee of educators selected the curriculum with input from elementary staff and is also looking at more resources for the junior high and high schools.

“There was a committee formed and we looked at five different companies. We circulated the material through the five buildings and looked at two choices,” she said, adding that a version from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt was selected. “We will be purchasing new materials for all the other schools in grades 6-12.”

Packer continued that the sixth-grade will utilize similar material as the elementary schools while officials are reviewing supplemental English and grammar resources for grades 7-8 and ELA items for grades 9-12, and the latter will be taken to the school board for approval. She noted that officials will update materials in a six-year cycle.

“We’re starting a rotation for curriculum each year,” she said. “We will look at each core department and make the necessary upgrades we can do at the time.”

Meanwhile, incoming Superintendent Coy Sudvary said the district will be positively impacted well into the foreseeable future.

“We’re very grateful to receive the funds. It will give us the flexibility to assist in upgrading the curriculum and facilities,” Sudvary said. “We’re going to be patient and look at the needs of the district to make sure we’re efficiently spending the funds. This is a major opportunity for the district to continue moving forward.”