By Linda Dillman
Fearing a potential loss of revenue if land owned by the Schacht family is detached from the city of Canal Winchester and then annexed into Columbus, the Canal Winchester Board of Education passed a resolution urging Canal Winchester City Council to take action to prevent the detachment.
According to a Win-Win agreement in 1992, territory located within the Canal Winchester Local School District annexed by Columbus is transferred out of the local district and into Columbus City Schools.
City council previously passed a pre-annexation, annexation agreement, and rezoning for land owned by the Schacht family at Bixby and Rager roads. However, a citizen-led referendum garnered enough signatures to place the proposed Northpoint warehouse development for the site on hold until after the November general election.
Under the terms of the pre-annexation agreement between the city and the property owners, the referendum filing is a condition that permits the Schachts to request detachment of the property from the city, which returns it return it to the Madison Township, and then file with a different entity, which is most likely Columbus.
During the April 19 school board meeting, Superintendent James Sotlar said Canal Winchester Schools has no authority when it comes to growth in making decisions in the community. However, when a property is detached, he said there is a responsibility to protect a revenue source.
“This is protecting our school property and making sure it’s not given to another school district where we could lose substantial tax revenue,” Sotlar said.
Board President Kevin Butler said he respects the city and their zoning and did not want to step on their decision, but for the school district, the board has to look at the situation from a holistic perspective.
“We have not had to go out for new taxpayer money and that’s really important to us,” said Butler. “We’re fiscal stewards. For us, it’s really important that we protect our property and our tax revenue. I’d really hate to see our land annexed to Columbus and we lose our control.”
Board member Vangela Barnes was not happy that the school board was getting involved in the issue, but at the same time agreed school board and taxpayer interests need to be protected. She said she had mixed feelings about the resolution.
“People should have the right to vote for or against something,” said Barnes in referring to the referendum. “They’ve gone through the process. At the same time, we have the right to protect taxpayers and the revenues our schools need or acquire.”
Board member Monika Talley said she was in support of the property resolution because she believes it is in the best interests of the school district to support any and all measures to retain the property in order to prevent the future loss of school revenue.
The board resolution passed 5-0.
Mental health issues
Sotlar reported on district initiatives to support the mental health of staff, students, and their families. He said many are struggling to navigate changes over the last two years as evidenced by learning disruptions and significant mental and behavioral challenges due to myriad factors.
“Sadly, over the last several months, tragic incidents have occurred that are impacting our schools and our community,” said Sotlar. “As educators and school officials, we know as parents you want the best for your children. We’re asking for help from our parents if they see signs of their kids struggling to contact the school. If we see something, that’s our key to contact someone, whether it’s the school nurse or school counselor or a mental health provider you go to or other health professional.”
In the upcoming school year, the district’s goal is to add several mental health related positions to the Canal Winchester school district staff at all levels.
“To strengthen our mental health team and to provide additional support for our students and their families,” said Sotlar. “We’re going to have additional counselors at Indian Trail and the high school. Hopefully add a Nationwide Children’s Health clinical counselor. This would put one in each building and hopefully add a clinical counseling intern. Hopefully, overall, we’ll have one board-certified mental health specialist district-wide. We’re doing our best to try and bring people into our buildings. We know there is a lot of work to do. Empowering all of our students for success goes beyond the classroom.”