By Rick Palsgrove
The Groveport Madison school district will get a new high school as well as reinstatement of high school busing and other previous financial and program cuts.
Voters approved a five year, 6.68 mill operating levy (which includes a .5 mill permanent improvement levy) that will generate $4.5 million annually for operating expenses; and a $33.3 million, 38-year, 2.24 mill bond issue that will fund construction of a new high school. The annual cost for the owner of a $100,000 home for the combined ballot issue will be $312.
According to unofficial election results from the Franklin County Board of Elections, the district’s combined levy/bond issue was approved by 53 to 47 percent with 3,663 voting in favor of the issue and 3,200 opposing it.
“This is a generational accomplishment,” said Groveport Madison Superintendent Bruce Hoover, who noted the last time the district approved a bond issue was in the early 1970s. “This is special for our kids and community. We’ll have a new high school and be able offer more educational and academic opportunities. We’re now financially stable and have plans in place to take care of our facilities long term. I’m excited for our kids.”
Groveport Mayor Lance Westcamp lauded the work of the levy committee and added, “This is great for the city, community and the schools.”
Maria McGraw, co-chair of the Committee for Better Schools, said, “This means we’ll be able to restore and improve the vital educational programs our children need.”
McGraw also stated she was pleased the district will get a new high school and joked, “I met my husband here (in the high school), but I was set to bring a sledgehammer here tonight to start its demolition.”
Board President Bryan Shoemaker proclaimed to the crowd of about 100 in the Groveport Madison High School auditorium, who watched the election returns come in on May 6, “The result of this election means we’re going to be the ‘Cruiser Nation’ of old. We’re all going to work together.”
Those who opposed the levy/bond issue questioned the district’s assertions that the schools are overcrowded and that the high school, built in stages between 1966-71 with an addition in 1975, was beyond repair. They also believed the levy/bond issue’s increase in taxes on property owners was too much.
The approval of the levy/bond issue enables the district to:
•Restore student busing for Groveport Madison High School.
•Reinstate busing beyond 1-mile radius for K-8 students.
•Phase in college and career readiness programs with emphasis in science, technology, engineering, and math courses for grades 5-12.
•Increase Advance Placement course options.
•Reinstate all athletics and extracurricular programs.
•Fund integration of educational technology plan at all grade levels.
•Allocate $1 million for essential building repairs to the high school (immediate needs only) and other building repairs. The existing high school must be used for about three years until the new high school is constructed.
•Maintain a carryover of $3 million by 2017.
•Begin planning and construction of new high school with Ohio School Facility Commission matching funds.
•Establish an independent citizen task force to review and communicate the use of taxpayer investment.
The $62.9 million, 235,000 square foot high school, will be paid for by Ohio Schools Facilities Commission funding of $29.6 million and the local taxpayer share of $33.3 million.
Hoover said plans are to break ground for the construction of the new high school in the spring of 2015. He said it will take 18 to 20 months to construct the new school, which will be built in the existing high school parking lot. He anticipates the new high school will be open by the fall of 2017.
Once the new high school is open, the existing high school, located at 4475 S. Hamilton Road, will be demolished.
Hoover said public meetings will be held regarding the design plans for the new high school.
The levy/bond issue’s passage also means the district will avoid making $3 million in cuts that would have included: continuing without busing services for Groveport Madison High School students; maintaining state minimum busing for K-8 students (no busing within 2-mile radius); eliminating all athletic and extracurricular programs at all grade levels; reducing art and music programs at all grade levels( no K-8 programs, one high school fine art credit to remain); staff reductions of: 27 teachers, 2 guidance counselors, 2 administrators and 1 clerical position; evaluating the possibility of closing a school and consolidating middle schools; and additional staff and program reductions as necessary to meet the budget.