Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Federal Hocking Discusses Schools Closing

Katie Boyer

The Federal Hocking School District is in the process of making a decision that could result in the closing of both Coolville and Amesville Elementary Schools. Board members met Wednesday evening to discuss multiple agenda items, including the recommendation from Superintendent Jim Patsey about what he feels should be done regarding the elementary schools.

Superintendent's Recommendation
The board requested a recommendation from Patsey at the last board meeting, and because he feels strongly about the issue, he was more than happy to provide the board with his thoughts. His recommendation was simple, the schools should not close. Not only did the superintendent say he wanted the schools to remain open, he provided a list of twelve reasons why:

1. Research indicates that students learn better in smaller schools.

2. The Governor’s two year biennium budget shows the amount of state money the district will receive. The Governor is making every attempt to hold the schools harmless when looking at making additional budget cuts.

3. The five year financial forecast will have or nearly have a positive balance and in no one year will the district spend more than it takes in.

4. The district has an approximate 1.2 million dollar balance. Some have said that this is the largest in the history of Federal Hocking.

5. Some parents would open enroll their students to other school districts.

6. Some parents of students open enrolling to Federal Hocking would no longer bring their students there, especially if they live close to the borders of the district. They can get their children to Amesville or Coolville but it may very well be a greater hardship to transport them to Stewart, where a new elementary school would be built.

7. It is unlikely that the district could immediately sell the two elementary buildings which would mean additional expense for utilities and maintenance.

8. By far the majority of parents and staff are opposed to closing the two buildings.

9. There would be transportation issues as a result of the number of square miles that make up the district.

10. Both Amesville and Coolville Elementary schools are an integral part of the towns’ local economies. In these times of economic woes, closing the two buildings would have a devastating effect on local businesses.

11. Real estate value would drop in both Amesville and Coolville. Some have even indicated that they would appeal the tax value of their homes if the schools close.

12. Both buildings are still in relatively good condition.

Patsey also said that if the buildings do in fact close, there is no going back. He said although the district is in fiscal emergency, administrators have created a plan that has worked to save money. Patsey said the community, board, administration and staff should all be congratulated for their work to turn the finances around, and he again focused attention on the fact that it was accomplished without closing the two elementary schools.

Board Members' Reaction
After his recommendation, board members had an opportunity to discuss the issue of closing the schools. The discussion kept coming back to the Ohio Schools Facility Commission and its partnership with Federal Hocking. If the board decided to close the schools and build a new school onto the high school/middle school complex in Stewart, the state would provide much of the funding.

The members talked about how they could raise the local share of 1.1 million dollars with a levy. Patsey again mentioned that with the economy in a recession, it would be extremely difficult to get a levy passed. However, board member Dan Dailey said he understood why the community did not want the schools to close, but he said it would be hard to pass up building a brand new school for the next generations for only 1.1 million dollars. The board did not focus on the possibility of renovating the two existing school which would bring less state money and cost more than six million dollars in local share.

Deadline for Decision
The board decided unanimously to wait until the first next year to make the final decision. The Ohio Schools Facility Commission must have a decision by the end of January. The board hopes to get more information about how much savings there would be in both keeping the schools open, compared with closing them in favor of one campus. The next board meeting will be November 18th at the Federal Hocking Middle School and it is open to the public.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

by getting rid of patsey we could save 109,000.00