Residents, school staff and students had another opportunity to voice their questions and opinions regarding the possible closure of the Okaw Valley Intermediate School in Findlay.
The Okaw Valley School Board is considering closing the school in a cost-cutting effort for the district. The Intermediate School houses the 4th and 5th grades.
The third forum with the residents was held Wednesday evening at the Okaw Valley Middle School. Two other forums were held earlier in the fall.
“We have spent several months looking at this,” said school board vice president Michelle McClain. “We’re responsible for your taxpayer money.We’re looking at this in light of possible proposed changes in state funding to the schools.”
“The board is taking a proactive approach,” said Okaw Valley Superintendent Joel Hackney. He explained that school finances right now are based on a lot of “ifs” at the State level, especially with regard to the borrowing bill now in consideration.
In December Okaw Valley received all of the state aid owed them for the 2009-2010 school year. However the State has not paid any categoricals (transportation and special education reimbursements) or grant payments. These owed payments amount to about $500,000 in revenue to the district.
“The State claims the recently passed tax increase will stabilize State Aid. If the borrowing bill passes we might see some catagorical payments this year,” Hackney said. The borrowing bill will need a three-fifths vote to pass in the State legislature.
McClain told the audience that the building closure could save the district $90,000 a year in operations. This does not include any building repairs that may arise.
The Intermediate School building was considered because it is the smallest facility in the district, it does not have a gym, and it has the fewest number of grades to relocate. In the proposal, the fourth grade will be moved to the elementary building in Bethany and the fifth grade will be moved to the middle school building in Findlay.
A few audience members voiced concern about the fifth graders being in the same building as the seventh and eighth grade.
Hackney explained that the fifth grade would be self-contained to the upper level of the building, remaining separate from the sixth, seventh, and eighth grades.
“They would not be moving from class to class. They would continue to be self-contained,” Hackney said.
He added that to do this other renovations would be made, include moving the library and computer lab to the current storage area in the lower part of the building. Costs for the renovation are estimated at $40,000 for heating and air and electrical work, and the work could be done in a relatively short period of time.
Hackney noted that the only staff cuts would be to part time cooks and custodians. All faculty will move to the respective buildings. He reassured that the quality of education would not be compromised and the student/teacher ratio would be the same.
Residents also voiced concern about what would happen with the building and property values if the building sat empty.
“We don’t want dilapidated buildings in any community. That is one of our concerns,” McClain said. “All of our buildings are old but they are in decent shape.”
She said the board would try to sell the building as the first option. The community could also decide what to do with the building.
Board member Craig Macklin asked if there was opposition to demolishing the building if a buyer could not be found.
No response was made.
The board closed the forum by stating that they would consider the input from the community, but they were not pressured at the present time to make a rush decision.
“We will make the decision based on information and input from the community. We just know we can’t count on money from the State,” McClain said.
“We can go another year or two or three, but a some point we have to make a decision,” said board member Brooke Bartimus.
Hackney encouraged residents to complete a survey and submit their comments online at www.okawvalley.org.