Religious instruction pilot program moving forward

(Posted Jan. 17, 2024)

By Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Editor

A pilot program offering off-campus religious instruction to Madison-Plains School District students during the school day is slated to take place this spring.

A representative of Wings of Hope 337, a group of area residents wishing to offer this instruction, presented plans at the Madison-Plains school board meeting in December. Superintendent Chad Eisler has since looked into the matter. He provided an update at the Jan. 9 school board meeting.

Eisler said the program is legal and does not require school board approval. The Ohio Revised Code allows for “released time” instruction–a period of time during which a student is excused from school to take part in religious instruction conducted by a private entity off school district property. Madison-Plains has a policy in place that corresponds with the Ohio Revised Code.

“This goes back to a Supreme Court decision that was made in 1952,” Eisler said. “There are a lot of school districts that have the same policy that we do, and there are lots of these programs coming to school districts in recent years. Our policy was adopted in 2007.”

The policy stipulates that parents must sign off on their child’s participation, the program must take place off-campus, and the private entity in charge of the program must provide transportation. No public funds or public personnel are involved, and students cannot be released from a core curriculum subject course to participate. Participation is voluntary.

Wings of Hope 337 plans to run its pilot program once a week for six to eight weeks this spring for a limited number of students. Instruction will take place at Midway Presbyterian Church in Sedalia.

Jeff Prosise, treasurer and spokesperson for Wings of Hope 337, said at the December meeting that the group’s goal is “to build and strengthen good morals and values in our children by providing a means for biblical instruction during the school day.”

The Wings of Hope 337 board includes representatives from Mount Sterling First Church of the Nazarene, along with other area residents.

Coach and advisor contracts
At their Jan. 9 meeting, the Madison-Plains school board approved the following supplemental contracts:

Gail Oravec–music program advisor for grades K-6;
Kevin Stockham–varsity girls’ head softball coach;
Kennedy Clifton–varsity girls’ assistant softball coach;
Travis Rinehart–Varisty boys’ head baseball coach;
Lave Delay–boys’ head baseball coach for grades 7-8;
Jason Hunt–varsity boys’ head track coach;
Paul Bryant–varsity boys’ assistant track coach;
Ashley Meade–varsity girls’ head track coach;
Cale Burdyshaw–boys’ head track coach for grades 7-8;
Woodrow Kitchen–volunteer bowling coach; and
Jason Hunt–varsity football coach.

Van Fleet
Madison-Plains is updating its van fleet, replacing two of its three vans with Honda Odyssey minivans and adding an additional minivan to the fleet. The district uses the vehicles for sports programs and transporting students with special needs to specialized programming.

The cost to buy the minivans is roughly half the cost to buy vans comparable to what the district has used in the past, Eisler reported. The district has already purchased and put to use one used minivan (a 2022) for $31,400 and one new minivan for $35,800. The third minivan is nearly ready for use and cost $37,800. The district received a total of $5,000 for its two trade-ins.

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