By Rick Palsgrove
The winter weather has wreaked havoc on schools this winter.
“We’ve lost 12 days due to the weather and we’re only allowed five calamity days by the state,” said Groveport Madison Superintendent Bruce Hoover.
Hoover said the district plans to make up five of the lost days by tacking days on to the end of the school year. Any additional lost days could be made up during spring break.
State legislators are currently debating legislation that would allow schools an additional four calamity days.
Current law mandates that school is in session for 182 days.
To help combat the loss of school days due to weather, the Groveport Madison Board of Education passed a resolution for a “blizzard bag” program. The plan must also be approved by the Groveport Madison Local Education Association and by the state before it can be implemented.
“We want to make the program relevant and right for the kids,” said Hoover.
Under the blizzard bag plan, students would receive academic work online or, if they do not have access to a computer, on paper. Students would have two weeks from the date of their return to school from a calamity day to complete the assignments.
The Ohio Department of Education first provided the opportunity for school districts to make up days through an online alternative plan commonly referred to as “blizzard bags” in 2011. Schools participating in the program had to file an annual plan by Aug. 1 to be eligible for the upcoming school year. With the onslaught of snowstorms rolling through Ohio, the ODE re-opened the program to districts for 2013-2014, provided they signed up prior to Feb. 28.
Levy/bond issue update
Chris Snyder, co-chair of the citizens’ group Committee for Better Schools, said a celebration to kickoff the levy/bond issue campaign is being planned. He said a date for the celebration and volunteer opportunities will be announced soon.
“Good schools matter to all of us,” said Snyder.
Voters will decide on the combined operating levy and bond issue on May 6.
The five year levy would generate $4.5 million annually. The $33.3 million, 38-year bond issue to build a new high school is coupled with a .5 mill permanent improvement levy. The annual cost for the owner of a $100,000 home for the combined ballot issue would be $312.
According to Hoover, approval of the ballot issue would allow the district to reinstate high school busing and other transportation; reinstate extracurricular activities; invest in textbooks and technology; restore and improve college and career courses; allocate $1 million for building repairs; create a $3 million financial carry over by 2017; and enable the construction of a new high school that could open by the fall of 2017.
If voters reject the ballot issue, Hoover said $3 million in cuts would be necessary. These cuts would include not reinstating high school busing and other transportation; eliminating all extracurricular activities; eliminating art and music programs; 27 staff cuts; reducing the number of administrators, guidance and support staff; consolidating middle schools; and possibly closing some school buildings.
According to district officials, maintaining and renovating the nearly 50-year-old high school would cost $16 million spread out over a 16 to 20 year period using the $1 million available in the permanent improvement fund each year.
So instead, the school board wants to build a new $62.9 million, 235,000 square foot high school using Ohio Schools Facilities Commission funding with the state paying $29.6 million and the local share paying $33.3 million.
The high school, located at 4475 S. Hamilton Road, would be torn down and a new high school would be built where the current parking lot, two softball fields and tennis courts now stand. The softball fields and tennis courts would be moved to elsewhere on the property. The new building option could include either constructing a high school with a new auditorium and one, large gymnasium; or keeping the existing auditorium and gymnasium and then building a new high school with a second, larger gymnasium.
Hoover said the state informed the district the high school is in “such poor condition and is so overcrowded that replacing it would be a more cost effective solution than continuing to maintain and repair it.”He said replacing the high school would allow millions of dollars from the budget that are now used for repairs and maintenance to be redirected for other educational and maintenance purposes.
Voters in the Groveport Madison school district have not approved a bond issue for new buildings since the early 1970s.