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Voters turn down schools
|Messenger photos by Andrea Cordle
|Christine Ervin, hugs her friend, Lexie Carius, after the defeat of Issue 2. Ervin, who was going to be senior at Westland, will move to Marietta to continue her volleyball career.
|Meredith Ervin comforts her daughter, Samantha, a student at Galloway Ridge. Samantha’s sister, Christine, is moving away so she can play volleyball her senior year. She was going to be a senior at Westland.
The start of the 2009/10 school year is just weeks away, but many students in the South-Western City School District have little to look forward to.
Hundreds of students, parents, staff and Issue 2 supporters packed the activity center at Grove City Church of the Nazarene on Aug. 4 to await results of the special election.
They watched the close numbers come in all night, but in the end, they faced disappointment. Issue 2 was narrowly defeated 51 percent to 49 percent.
Without the passage of the four-year 8.3-mill tax levy, the district will cut athletics, extracurricular activities and high school busing. About 66 positions will be lost and buildings will close after school hours. Kingston will remain closed, as will Harrisburg Elementary.
The levy would have generated $21 million for the district. In 2010, the district faces a $5 million deficit. In 2011, the deficit climbs to $20 million.
District Superintendent Dr. Bill Wise said additional reductions and cost saving measures are likely.
“By no means is this something we wanted,” said Wise to the crowd after learning the numbers were not in the district’s favor. “We may have to make immediate cuts.”
The district has already made $8 million in budget cuts for the next school year. Wise said it might come down to maintaining just the essential programs. When asked what is left to cut, the superintendent said the district may cut into the core (academics). He also said they might have to look at expanding walk zones and implementing state minimum standards in transportation.
By eliminating 66 positions, the district will save about $2.4 million, according to Treasurer Hugh Garside. They will cut 30 classified positions, 29 certified positions and seven administrators. Closing Harrisburg will save $730,000 a year; closing Kingston will save about $1 million.
Nearly 6,200 students will have to find alternative transportation to school this fall.
Garside said the district will save approximately $2.5 million a year by cutting athletics and extracurricular activities. The board has previously stated they will not implement a pay to play option.
While district leaders plan for another budget crunch, students prepare for one tough year.
“We thought we had it (the levy) licked,” said Jayne Mayers, mother of Greyhound quarterback Michael Mayers.
Jayne said her son has been in Grove City all his life and is a senior this year. She said he does not want to go to another school. He and his teammates had been holding their own football practices all summer for a season they will not see. The senior also played baseball and basketball.
Meredith Ervin is planning to say good-bye to her daughter, Christine, as she plans to move to Marietta, Ohio to live with her grandmother so she can play volleyball and get a college scholarship. Christine would have been a senior at Westland High School.
While there was sadness on election night, supporters and administrators tried to end with a message of hope.
“It was surprising and wonderful how this community came together,” said Jill Billman-Royer, Citizens for South-Western City Schools. “Don’t lose that sense of togetherness.”
Wise said, “This is not the end.”
The superintendent said the administration would have to have conversations with the board of education on the next step.
The district has one last chance to collect dollars in 2010 – if they pass a November levy.
There is no word yet on if the board will approve plans for a try this fall.
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