Licking County News

Licking Heights

District officials want to be on 'one team' with residents

By

The Licking Heights school board canceled its Aug. 19 meeting to schedule a community-outreach meeting at 6 p.m. Aug. 26 to discuss student growth and facility needs prior to the regular meeting at 7 p.m.

"It actually fell on the evening before the first day of school (Aug. 20)," board member Richard Wand said.

Wand said board members believed district students and parents should be preparing for the first day instead of attending a board meeting.

However, he said, board members and district administrators hope for strong community involvement during the outreach meeting.

"We'd like to get everybody talking," he said. "We have to get everybody to agree there is a growth problem."

Wand and other district officials are dealing with the Aug. 5 rejection of a 2.86-mill bond request.

According to unofficial results from the Franklin and Licking county boards of elections, the bond issue was rejected 2,108 votes to 1,194 votes.

Licking Heights officials have said the 2.86-mill bond was intended to provide a local match to state funding from the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission.

The bond issue would have raised $26,575,000, with the expectation that the state would have provided another $21 million to $30 million, district officials have said.

The bond would have cost district homeowners about $99 per year per $100,000 of assessed property value.

"Obviously, we didn't do a very good job portraying our need," Wand said.

He said board members must help residents understand the district's increasing enrollment is a long-term issue and can't be solved with a two-year solution.

"This is not a short-term problem," Wand said. "We have to look at the next 10 years."

Superintendent Philip Wagner said Pataskala is a strong community and a popular place to live, which means student enrollment is exceeding even the state's projections.

"It's a good problem to have," Wagner said.

He said enrollment expansion is not a high school issue only; all buildings are overcrowded and the entire district needs to be reorganized.

"We need to divide the student population by six buildings, not five," he said.

Wagner said district officials continue to reach out to those who opposed the Aug. 5 bond request to find common ground.

Wand said the board plans to form a committee of residents from "both sides of the fence" in an attempt to reach an agreement.

"We're trying," Wagner said. "We need to be one team."

Wagner said district officials are consulting with an architect about construction options and running those options past the Ohio School Facilities Commission.

"We're encouraging as much public participation as possible," Wagner said.

To that end, he said, the school district set up an email, lhbuildingoptions@laca.org, for anyone to present ideas to the district at any time.

Comments