Licking County News

Southwest Licking officials intent on answering all bond questions

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As the May 6 primary election approaches, Southwest Licking school board members and administrators are scrambling to inform residents about the district's 6.1-mill bond issue to raise $66.5 million for a sizable building and remodeling project.

Following a question-and-answer session in advance of the Feb. 20 board meeting at Etna Elementary School and from speaking to residents the past few weeks, Superintendent Robert Jennell said he sees some patterns in questions about the bond issue.

"I have been answering numerous questions from a variety of people over the past few months," Jennell said. "There doesn't seem to be a main area of concern, but a desire by most for more information on a specific part of the project, normally in the area affecting the person asking the question."

For example, he said, some wonder how long will it take for the new elementary school to be built and if the district will keep its athletics facilities.

Also, district residents want to know what will be done with the middle school, if the district will retain the philosophy of neighborhood schools and if it can or will offer all-day, every-day kindergarten.

Other questions, he said, include if the district has anticipated new staffing needs in the budget, if any thought has been given to how much it might cost to operate the new buildings, how many chances to vote on the bond issue remain before the current offer of assistance from the Ohio School Facilities Commission on is gone and if the modular buildings would disappear after renovations and what those renovations will be.

"These are great questions and questions that need to be answered," Jennell said. "In addition to the community (forums), the board has put together a 'dynamic' fact booklet."

Much of the information is available online at standupcitizens4swl.wix.com/swlbondissue.

In addition, Board President Don Huber said he is writing and distributing supplements called More Straight Talk. He said More Straight Talk No. 1 is available and he is working on a second.

For example, the first supplement includes the questions: Why does SWL need additional space now? Isn't it true that SWL has had very little growth in recent years?

Huber's answer is, "SWL has had modest but steady growth for a long time and has been significantly overcrowded for many years. Twenty years ago, there were 3,027 students, 10 years ago 3,505 and the estimated official enrollment for this school year is 3,943.

"Thus, SWL has gained more than 900 students in 20 years, or more than 400 in the past 10 years."

The next community question-and-answer session will be in advance of the school board meeting at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, March 20, at Kirkersville Elementary School, 215 N. Fifth St. in Kirkersville.

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