Pickerington Board of Education member Lori Sanders defended the "penalty" clause of the district’s open enrollment policy at the board’s Jan. 14 meeting.
By law, students may enroll in any school within their district – not just the one closest to their home. In Pickerington, students who choose to switch schools must sacrifice a year of eligibility to participate in sports.
At the board’s Dec. 17 meeting, it amended the policy to extend the penalty or "standard conditions" to include seventh and eighth graders. Previously the penalty only applied to high school athletes.
"Why are you targeting only athletes?" parent Hope Boren asked. "Why would there not be penalties for students in theater, ‘In the Know’ and more?"
She said her older son, Justin Boren, who now plays football at the University of Michigan enjoyed high school when he played for the Central Tigers, but when the district split and he became a North Panther his high school days became miserable.
Boren addressed the board again on Jan. 14 to express her frustration at not being allowed to speak at the previous meeting until after the board had decided on the open enrollment issue she had come to protest.
Sanders said that Pickerington’s policy mirrors changes to the Ohio High School Athletic Association’s (OHSAA) policy.
"I am only guessing (why OHSAA changed its policy) but believe that issues were growing with regards to athletes bouncing from school to school when they didn’t like the situation they were currently in at their school," Sanders said. "Our current policy does not take away the freedom to choose. That choice just has to be made before an athlete participates in interscholastic sports in seventh grade. It is unfortunate that so much time and energy is spent on this issue. We have many other areas that need to be focused on in this district."
To prepare students for a world increasingly dependent on technology, Pickerington Local Schools plans to increase its tech curriculum over the next five years.
Next year, both high schools will offer an introduction to technology engineering course in which students will dismantle and reassemble computers, said Curriculum Director Dr. Edwina Campbell.
At the elementary level, Mary Sheridan, a teacher at Tussing, has applied for a $750,000 Science Technology Engineering Mathematics (STEM) grant from the state. If the Ohio Department of Education awards the STEM grant to Pickerington, all of the district’s elementary schools will purchase video equipment.
With the new equipment, the students will film issues important to them such as environmental threats.
Several local businesses have offered services to the project. Marcus Theater agreed to host a film festival to showcase the students’ work, Sheridan said.
New welcome center
Director of Student Services George Vickroy announced that the district’s new welcome center would open in late spring, although he hopes it will be sooner.
Once complete, families enrolling their children in Pickerington schools would register at the center located at the Ridgeview Junior High annex rather than the individual schools.
The center will enter student information into a centralized database. Collected data will help the district apply for additional state dollars, said Superintendent Dr. Karen Mantia.
To open the welcome center, the technology must be finalized and the staff needs trained
"Before advertising that we are open, we want to be as close to perfect as we possibly can," Vickroy said.
Families entering the center would benefit from a scheduled appointment where they are welcomed to the district. If they have children at multiple schools, they can enroll them at one time.
The district will help the new students acclimate to their schools and will notify teachers of any possible academic challenges, Mantia said.
The board discussed compiling a master list of needed improvements to the district’s buildings. Each school will contribute repair requests and the items will be prioritized by greatest need.
The district would finance the repairs via the permanent improvement account. The account cannot be used for purposes other than building needs. It collects funds from a variety of sources including interest rates on bonds and revenue from a cell tower on Ridgeview’s campus, said board member Lisa Reade.
The roof at Central will remain among the priorities. As funds have become available, the district has repaired portions of the roof, but it is not complete, said Reade.
Wes Monhollen was elected board president with Sanders as the vice president.
Liaison assignments are as follows: arts – Gail Oakes, Reade; athletics – Lee Gray, Sanders; facilities and grounds – Reade, Sanders; finance – Monhollen, Oakes; legislative/community – Gray, Monhollen; PEA rep – all board members; personnel – Monhollen, Oakes; policy – Gray, Sanders; special education – Oakes, Reade; student achievement – Gray, Oakes; and transportation – Monhollen, Reade.