By Charles Prince
HEBRON – It’s now official! Lakewood School District voters will have a second opportunity on May 7 to approve a $39.8 million bond issue to replace the now 104-year old Hebron Elementary School and complete some critical repairs at the middle and high schools.
School board members unanimously approved the final resolution Wednesday evening to put it on the May 7 ballot. Voters rejected a $39.8 million bond issue last November by a 3483 to 2454 vote. Only one Lakewood precinct out of 11 – the Village of Hebron by a 52 percent to 48 percent margin – approved the bond levy. The proposed levy fared the worst in Franklin Township with just 35.59 percent of the voters approving it. Just 40 percent of the Village of Buckeye Lake voters favored the levy.
Interest rates and construction costs have increased since last August when the original bond issue was drawn up. Board members decided not to ask voters for more money, opting to try to find funds elsewhere to replace the high school roof to offset the higher construction costs. The interest rate on the 28-year bonds was estimated last year at 4.5 percent; the new estimate for the same 28-year term is 5.25 percent which means the tax rate (millage) will have to increase from 5.1 mills last November to 5.4 in May. That increase will cost taxpayers approximately $6 million more in interest over the life of the bonds. Last November’s estimated 5.1 mills would have cost property owners an additional $178.50 a year for every $100,000 of their home’s value. The estimated 5.4 mills for May will cost property owners an additional $189.00 a year for every $100,000 of their home’s value.
“The longer it is delayed, the more the cost goes up,” Board member Bill Pollard explained. “It’s not getting cheaper.”
The levy campaign will kick-off at a 6 p.m. meeting on Tuesday, January 29, in the high school library. Superintendent Mary Kay Andrews said feedback from voters shows the district needs to hone in on the football stadium and Jackson Intermediate School issues. Board members are considering several public forums where voters can ask questions and get answers. Board member Jonathan Lynch suggested that a rolling FAQ’s be posted on the district’s website for voters unable to attend one of the forums. Andrews thanked Jessica Corum for agreeing to continue as the campaign chair.
In other business Wednesday evening, board members unanimously decided to stick with their 2018 leadership team for another year. Tara Houdeshell and Jonathan Lynch were reelected president and vice president respectively. Pollard will be the district’s delegate to the Ohio School Board Association’s (OSBA) annual meeting. Board member Nathan Corum will be the alternate. Pollard will also serve as the Board’s legislative liaison to OSBA. Houdeshell will be the Board’s student achievement liaison to OSBA. Corum and District Treasurer Glenna Plaisted will represent the district on the Licking County Tax Incentive Review Council. Board member Brittany Misner will represent the Board on the Buckeye Lake Region Corporation. Lynch and Misner will serve on the Facility and Technology Committee. Corum and Misner are on the Finance Committee. Lynch and Pollard comprise the Policy Committee.
Jackson Intermediate School Principal Carol Field, Assistant Principal Beth Cline and teachers Carrie Francis and Signe Whitson told board members about their efforts to address bullying with their grade three through five students. Students are taught how to differentiate between rude, mean and bullying behaviors. Rude is more accidental or not thinking behavior while “mean” behaviors are doing rude things on purpose. Whitson explained the three P’s of bullying:
She added that none of the three behaviors are acceptable. “Mean is not right, and we’ll deal with it,” Whitson said. However, bullying is much more serious and results in more serious consequences.
Andrews later presented her mid-year report on bullying. “We want to know when students are having difficulty,” she said, encouraging students to report possible bullying incidents. Six incidents at the high school were reported and four were substantiated as bullying. At the middle school (grades 6 – 8), 13 incidents were reported. None were substantiated as bullying but several were considered harassment or intimidation. Two incidents were reported at Jackson Intermediate but neither were substantiated. At Hebron Elementary (K – 2), three incidents were reported with two being substantiated.
Andrews also presented the mid-year drug testing report. The district started random drug testing of most 7 – 12 grade students last August. Students participating in extracurricular activities or driving to school are included in the pool. Through January 8, 2019, 236 drug tests have been conducted with 99.5 percent negative results. The cost of the program is shared with parents with the district spending about $5,500 to date. Stakeholders will review the new policy in May.
Andrews also presented calendars for the next two school years. Both have been vetted by administrators, teachers and staff. She cautioned they are subject to change even after Board approval since the teachers’ union has review rights each January for the next school year’s calendar. Andrews said the calendars tried to address several, sometimes conflicting, issues:
- Concerns that school seems to be starting earlier in August each year;
- Desires for a longer Christmas break;
- Finishing the school year by the end of May; and
- Providing more time for teachers’ professional development.
The 2019-2020 calendar:
- School starts August 20 for pre-schoolers and Grades 1 -12. Kindergarten starts August 23.
- Christmas break begins December 23 with students returning Monday, January 6.
- Spring break begins March 30 with students returning Monday, April 6.
- Graduation is Sunday, May 24. May 28 is the last day for all students unless the district has to make up calamity days.
Andrews said there are no longer mandated calamity days. Districts must provide at least 910 hours of instruction a year for K – 6 students and at least 1,001 hours for 7 -12 students. If those minimums aren’t met due to snow or other calamity reasons, additional days must be added to achieve the minimum hours of instruction. For 2019-2020, Lakewood lists May 29 and June 1 – 4 as potential calamity make-up days.
The 2020-2021 calendar:
- School starts August 19 for pre-schoolers and Grades 1 -12. Kindergarten starts August 24.
- Christmas break begins December 21 with students returning Monday, January 4.
- Spring break begins March 29 with students returning Monday, April 5.
- Graduation is Sunday, May 30. May 26 is the last day for all students unless the district has to make up calamity days.
- Possible calamity make-up days are May 27 & May 28 and June 1 – 3.
Board members unanimously approved the calendars as part of the superintendent’s consent agenda.
During the recognition portion of her report, Andrews asked Lakewood High School student Board representative Grant Davis to present Certificates of Recognition to all Board members in recognition of National School Board Month. She also announced the results of the Lakewood Middle School Spelling Bee held earlier in the week. Seventh grader Kinsey Lynch continued to build her dynasty with another win. She won last year and was runner-up as a fifth grader. She can compete one more year. Fifth grader Molly Jones was runner-up this year and fellow fifth grader Vincent Eggers came in third.
In her report, Director of District Services Patti Pickering reported that the project to heat the new concession building at the football stadium has been completed. Efforts to freeze proof the building weren’t successful last winter. Lynch asked whether the project came in on budget or not. Pickering said she would have to check on the final cost. Board members approved a $47,450 contract with Superior Building Services. LLC for the project last November. She also reported that the district is seeking a 3:1 grant from the Ohio Bureau of Workers Compensation to purchase MARCS (Multi-Agency Radio Communication System) radios and bi-directional amplifiers to improve emergency communications with the district’s two school resource officers.
Pickering also reported that employees at Hendrickson Auxiliary Axle Systems in Hebron contributed nearly $1,000 to pay off all the student negative lunch balances (students are permitted to carry a negative balance if they forget or don’t have lunch money) for the first half of the school year. In other donations, Sue Rose donated a Yamaha Baby Grand Piano valued at $6,000 to the music department.
District Treasurer Glenna Plaisted reported that the district is getting some benefit from increasing interest rates. She said the district’s reserves that are invested in U.S. Treasury bills and high-grade, short term corporation debt earned $103,000 in 2018, up about $22,000 from 2017. She expects a larger increase in 2019.
In personnel matters, Board members accepted the resignation of Intervention Specialist Lynde Webster effective May 31. The following non-coaching supplements were approved for the 2018-19 school year:
- Martha Fickle as Lakewood Middle School drama advisor;
- Zach Brenning, Lakewood Middle School Geography/History Bee advisor; and
- Pam Hundley and Lisa Hawthorn in a split position as Lakewood Middle School STEM Club advisor.
Board members also approved a long list of revised policies on their second reading. Last month’s discussion during the first reading focused on a proposed revision to the head lice policy. Misner raised some questions about a more lenient policy concerning head lice. Currently, students found with “nits” are sent home. The change would only send home students with live louse. Misner wondered if the presence of students with nits might negatively affect overall attendance. School nurse Amy Morrison R.N. said there is no effective treatment for nits beyond removing them from the hair and thoroughly cleaning bedding, carpeting and anything in contact with the hair. She said nits don’t fly or jump so it would take physical contact with an infected student or their headgear or bedding. Andrews had promised to consider a hybrid policy and outlined it Wednesday evening. Principals and the school nurse will have the option of sending students with reoccurring “nits” home.
The Board’s next regular meeting is set for 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, February 13, in the high school library. The board’s first of a series of three-hour meetings on strategic planning is set for 6 p.m. on Monday, January 14, in the high school library. Representatives from the Ohio School Board Association are facilitating the once-a-month meetings which are scheduled through May.