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School board pulls bond levy

MILLERSPORT – Walnut Township Schools will have an issue on the November 2 ballot, but it won’t be a bond levy for athletic facilities.

Board members unanimously reversed a 3-2, July 21 vote to take the first step toward asking voters to approve a one mill bond levy to build an all-weather track; improve lighting at the football field; construct permanent rest rooms and a new concession stand; install a security fence; and possibly replace the turf on the football field. Timing is the issue.

"This is not a good time to be on the ballot," Superintendent Ron Thornton told board members. He noted that Columbus City Schools are seeking a combined operating/bond levy which will generate widespread negativity in the media.

"There are other avenues to get that track," he added. "It will take some creative thinking."

Thornton said later that there might be enough money left to do just the track from the $3 million Certificate of Participation bonds that are currently funding facility upgrades. The first and most expensive phase is being completed this week. Roofs have been replaced on both schools. New HVAC equipment has been installed at the high school and HVAC controls have been upgraded at both schools. New home bleaches have been installed at the football field. The high school parking lots are being paved this week. Significant technology improvements have been made at both schools, including new terminals for the computer labs. The district will have about $1.2 million left for phase two and three, Thornton said.

The second phase which will include some electrical, plumbing and security upgrades won’t be as expensive. Money from the community fundraising activities would supplement the COP contribution. "We’re up to $8,000," project chair and retired track coach Ken Keener reported. So far, most donations have been relatively small. Uncertainty about the levy could be affecting donations since potential donors don’t want to contribute twice – once voluntarily and then again via their property taxes.

"I think the track portion is doable," Thornton said. "I’m not sure we can get it done at the polls in November."

"I would support restructuring Phase III,’ board member Vince Popo said. His four colleagues agreed. Keener agreed to continue his fundraising efforts.

Earlier, board members unanimously agreed to place the renewal of one of the district’s 2.5 mill emergency levies on the Nov. 2 ballot. The levy brings in $258,000 a year for operating expenses. It will be collected through Dec. 31, 2009. The November election is the first of three free opportunities to place the renewal before voters. Approval will not increase taxes or the district’s revenue.

In other business Monday night, Thornton outlined some of his plans for the next school year.

• Review pay for substitute teachers. "We need to be competitive locally."

• Continue updating school board policies. The job is about half way done.

• Update the district’s Continuous Improvement Plan as required by the state.

• Implement Phase II improvements this fall.

• Continue to work with the track committee.

Thornton also reported that the district’s technology vendor has offered to provide a free – both to the district and residents – evening technology class to introduce residents to email, word processing etc. He will have more details this fall.

New high school principal Charles Leedle presented a plan for a twice-a-week in-school suspension program. He wants to keep students working in school, rather than missing work at home. Leedle said new athletic director Scott Pohlman would run the program. Pohlman is a regular substitute teacher and would be paid as a substitute. Thornton and district treasurer Kirk Grandy will look for funds for the program.

Leedle also proposed expanding the availability of favored water by putting a vending machine in the academic area. He estimated revenue at $200 per month. Students would be expected to keep litter under control. If not, the machine would be removed.

He also suggested that the soon-to-be paved high school parking lot have numbered spaces. Student drivers would have to register and would have a specified parking space. Tags would be issued for registered vehicles. Leedle suggested a $5 annual registration fee.

Board members also discussed improving traffic flow and safety at the high school with both Leedle and Thornton. One suggestion is to make Laker Drive that runs in front of the high school one-way. Traffic would enter from Ohio 204 outside the village and exit to the west on Ohio 204. One-way traffic would allow buses and parents to let students out directly on the sidewalk, keeping them out of traffic.

Board members also approved lunch prices for both schools. Thornton said the district is not increasing prices to help out parents. Fees for middle and high school students will also be same as last year.

This year the district is contracting with HR Imaging Partners to provide underclass school pictures, ID’s, sport photos and other specialty photographs for all three schools. The change was made after some complaints about the high cost of school pictures last year.

Board members scheduled a brief special meeting for 7:30 a.m. Monday, Aug. 18 in the high school library to take the final step to place the 2.5 mill emergency levy renewal on the Nov. 2 ballot.

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