Licking County News

SWL: a year in review

Proposed building project made big news in 2013

By ThisWeek Community News  • 

The past year was all about working toward positive change, said Southwest Licking Superintendent Robert Jennell.

"We have the potential opportunity to work with the Ohio School Facilities Commission on facility upgrades," he said.

Jennell said the district's proposed $109 million construction and renovation project, for which the state currently would fund $42.5 million, or roughly 45 percent, was the biggest event of 2013 for the district.

However, implementing the project requires passage of a 6.04-mill bond issue to raise $66.5 million.

Voters rejected a request for the bond in November, but it will be back on the May 2014 ballot. If voters reject it again, Jennell said, the district could lose the state's funding.

Jennell said he set goals in 2013 of establishing all-day kindergarten, which the current facilities make impossible, and "moving on from Band-Aid" solutions to such issues as overcrowding.

 

Other 2013 news

The rejected bond issue and proposed building project were not the only headlines of 2013.

The Southwest Licking Community Water and Sewer District provided Kirkersville Elementary School with water.

Previously, the school building had a poor-quality well with an unreliable pump.

"Now we're getting a clean (water) source to the building," Jennell said.

While all-day kindergarten remains a goal, Jennell said, the district did manage to increase classroom time for kindergartners by adjusting bus schedules.

"That was not an easy task," he said. "That was a huge challenge."

Transporting kindergartners and other students who are bused away from their home elementary schools directly to Kirkersville Elementary School provided kindergartners 20 minutes more with their teachers per day, Jennell said. That translates to nearly two full weeks of extra class time per year, he said.

Previously, kindergarten students who live in Pataskala and Etna were shuttled to Kirkersville Elementary School. However, they stopped at Pataskala and Etna schools first to transfer to a shuttle bus, which was time consuming, Jennell said.

Jennell said Watkins Memorial High School's new turf field also was an accomplishment.

"We had a group of parents working with businesses to deliver a new athletic field," he said. "That's exciting for kids."

Jennell said since the field was installed, more students are trying out for sports.

The turf project was a $600,000 community-sponsored fundraiser relying on donations from community members and businesses. No tax money, state funds or athletics team funds were used, he said.

The project had the complete backing of the Ohio High School Athletic Organization, the athletics boosters, the marching band, the school board and the SWL youth football organization, as well as many other organizations and individuals.

The school board also experienced significant change when Vice President Cindy Zaino stepped down July 25 after serving three and a half years as a member.

She said family responsibilities made it impossible for her to continue her term.

The board appointed former member Brad Williams to fill Zaino's seat the rest of the year and appointed Debra Moore vice president.

Williams was not eligible to run for election to Zaino's seat, and Daniel Bell defeated Andy Leachman and John Y. Vincent in the Nov. 5 election to join the board for a full term.

Incumbents Roger Zeune and Don Huber each retained their positions for another full term.

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