New Albany News

Volunteer policy update

Board divided on background check subsidies

By ThisWeek Community News  • 

New Albany-Plain Local school board members agree the district should subsidize the cost of background checks for volunteers, but they disagree on how much to subsidize.

The board is updating the district's volunteer and visitors policies. The new volunteer policy will include the addition of background testing for volunteers who work unsupervised with students.

The proposed volunteer policy reviewed by board members Sept. 23 requires volunteers to pay $15 for the background check, which can cost the district up to $46 per person.

Background checks are valid for five years, said Michael Sawyers, the district's chief of operations and strategic planning.

School board Vice President Mike Klein said he doesn't think volunteers should be charged.

"I think asking volunteers to pay that is wrong," he said.

Cheri Lehmann agreed. She said she had hoped to start a volunteer program with senior citizens to get them more involved in the district.

Lehmann said asking senior citizens to pay a small fee when they are on a fixed budget would deter them from volunteering and it could cause the district to lose other volunteers, as well.

School board President Laura Kohler said she agrees that the board should subsidize part of the cost, but not all of it.

"I believe that the board should subsidize most of the expense associated with fingerprinting and background checks," Kohler said after the meeting. "The cost to the district is $46 per volunteer and the proposed policy requires each volunteer to pay a total of $15 for a background check that lasts for five years.

"I am comfortable with the board's $31 subsidy. Most of our volunteers will understand a $15 commitment to enhance student safety."

Board member Mark Ryan did not offer his opinion at the meeting and did not weigh in after. Board member Natalie Matt was absent from the meeting.

Kohler said the board should email final comments to the administration and the board would vote on the changes in October.

Sawyers said the district spent $7,272 on background checks last year and earned $8,225 for completing background checks for outside entities, such as Scout groups.

He said the district charges outside entities $50 to complete the background checks, $4 more than the actual cost.

The district also is updating its visitors policy, requesting that people make arrangements in advance of a visit and receive a badge with their name on it when they enter a building.

Visitors would have to show photo identification to receive a badge.

Sawyers explained the difference between volunteers and visitors. As an example, he said, visitors include parents who visit the K-1 elementary to have lunch with their children. Volunteers are parents who go to the K-1 elementary to read to students in a classroom.

Also on Sept. 23, board members reviewed the first draft of changes to the interscholastic athletics policy.

Sawyers said the changes include extracurricular eligibility requirements for children who are homeschooled, as required by Ohio House Bill 59.

The change also aligns the policy to include Ohio Revised Code section 3313.539, which has guidelines for concussions.

Changes include allowing a coach or referee to prohibit an athlete from competing in a sport if the athlete shows any signs of a concussion.

Klein asked that athletics trainers also be given the power to remove an athlete showing signs of a concussion.

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