Whitehall residents are offering positive feedback about the possibility of getting new schools through a proposed bond levy and funds from the Ohio Schools Facilities Commission.
Committees met Feb. 21 to update community input received during 16 coffees held since January. Of 102 comment cards, 92 gave favorable comments, one was unfavorable and nine were undecided.
Superintendent Judyth Dobbert-Meloy thinks that is a very good sign, but knows there is a lot of work left to be done informing the public and answering concerns.
After two assessments by the OSFC of all buildings in the district, it was determined that the cost of repairs would be greater than two-thirds of the cost for replacement.
The total cost to rebuild all buildings would be around $65 million. The state would pay for 62 percent, making the community responsible for the remaining 38 percent, and requiring a bond levy.
Residents and businesses have been hosting informational coffees with Dobbert-Meloy and school board members on hand to explain the process and field questions. Some of the most raised questions are whether having new schools will enhance learning, and recent research says that it will.
Several studies suggest a strong link between the condition of the school buildings and the level of community involvement and support in the schools. There also seems to be a relationship between substandard school buildings and lower student achievement test scores.
Students perform better on tests in schools designed as modern teaching environments. The difference in test scores varies as much as 17 percent, according to OSFC.
Teachers and students find it easier to focus on education when their environment is comfortable and flexible. The older buildings cannot handle the addition of air conditioning with their current systems or electrical capabilities. Those limitations also lack the ability to support technology such as multiple computers and visual education equipment.
Also, they found that students in newer buildings outperformed students in older ones. Space, noise, heat, cold, light and air quality affect both student and teacher performance.
One parent commented that her asthmatic child has breathing difficulties when the rooms are hot.
Others said that the overall condition of the schools are not in the best interest in reducing transient residents and rentals. Newer schools tend to attract new residents and businesses. Because of the age of the buildings, they are not compliant to serve special needs, in particular, wheelchair access.
Safety is a major concern, especially at the high school. Upon entering the school, there is no form of security, and parents would like to know that their children are in a protected environment.
The public is invited to attend a coffee meeting on March 4 at Kae Avenue Elementary, March 5 at Whitehall Yearling High School or March 10 at the administration building (next to the high school). All meeting will begin at 7 p.m.
Residents interested in hosting a coffee or finding one can call Patty Bridges at 417-5002.