Increased safety and security measures are one component of what would be funded if the Westerville City School District's proposed 1.95-mill bond issue and 5.9-mill operating levy on the Nov. 5 ballot pass.
District treasurer Nicole Marshall said approval of the 5.9-mill operating levy would allow the district to maintain programs and services at current levels.
She said the bond is intended to provide funding for safety and security updates districtwide as well as a new middle school, new elementary school, renovations and additions at Annehurst and Whittier elementary schools, renovations at Hawthorne Elementary School and facilities-assessment needs at Hanby, Emerson and Longfellow elementary schools.
If approved, the estimated annual cost of the 5.9-mill operating levy and 1.95-mill bond issue would be an additional $274.75 per $100,000 in property valuation.
Greg Viebranz, the district's executive director of communication and technology, said if the bond is approved, some of the funds would be dedicated to modifying school building entrances so visitors would have to go through the office for a face-to-face interaction with office staff before having access to areas with other staff and students.
He said Westerville Central High School, 7118 Mount Royal Ave., has that design, as does Pointview Elementary School, 720 Pointview Drive, as a result of its renovation a few years ago.
"All of the other schools would be renovated to create this type of secure entryway that better protects our students and staff," Viebranz said.
Scott Dorne, the district's facilities and operations director, said the entrance concept is fairly simple.
"A visitor arrives to our front door, they are greeted by a receptionist through a video-intercom doorbell system," he said. "Once they move through that system, they will be directed into our offices. What we are going to do is change some of our buildings so we have some physical barriers so that they are more aware of the direction they're supposed to take once they get in the building."
After visitors access the building offices, Dorne said, they would have face-to-face communication with a district employee.
"They will be run through our visitor management system and then be granted access into our buildings," he said. "When they're granted access to our buildings, it will essentially unlock the door for them so they can get into all our learning spaces to the destination they're looking for."
The district currently has intercoms.
"Part of our process, though, that we're going through right now is swapping those out for devices that are network capable so that we can use them for more locations in the school than just the front office reception," Dorne said. "That will give us more versatility for programs after school to keep our doors locked and our buildings secure and our students safe. They can use those remotely from anywhere in the building."
He said Central and Pointview have the physical security barriers.
"We're going to add some more electronic devices to both buildings," Dorne said. "But, generally, (with) our other buildings that's not the case. Some of them are as easy as adding a second storefront inside their hallway ... those doors become the barrier and send people into the offices. Some are going to be as challenging as moving the office in a classroom so the office ends up being at the front door instead of being in the center of the building."
He said he anticipates the most challenging buildings to be Cherrington Elementary School and Genoa Middle School because their offices sit in the center of the buildings.
"Those will require some major renovations, where others might just be simply adding an exterior door," Dorne said.
"It's a system just designed to allow varying levels of scrutiny for people who want to come into a school building. When you know who the parents are and those kind of things, it's a little bit, probably quicker. But if you're new to the building or haven't visited before, it will take a few seconds for you to go through the visitor-management screening system before you're released into the building, whether it's for an IEP meeting or to have lunch with a student."
He said the district needs to make sure it's taking all necessary security measures before allowing people into the school buildings.
"If Issue 8 passes, we will be able to make critical safety and security upgrades at every school," said John Kellogg, superintendent. "Most notably, every school would receive a redesigned entryway that routes visitors through the school office before they would ever have access to areas occupied by students or teachers. We'll also be able to add or enhance our visitor management process, access control, and video security systems at every school."
No formal opposition groups have opened a political-action committee with the Franklin County Board of Elections regarding the Westerville school bond/levy, according to Aaron Sellers, elections board spokesman.
District resident Susan Fulton said district residents have expressed opposition to the tax issue on the social-networking application Nextdoor, which requires verification of residency to be part of the network.
She said the board of education had two options for millage rates, 4.9 mills and 5.9 mills, and chose the highest rate.
"That is not sitting well for a huge and very diverse number of us," she said. "I have noted the age range and from which areas of the school district the people commenting on Nextdoor and it runs from younger folks to seniors, from the south end to the north and everywhere in between. This is not a senior-only issue for those of us on retirement but seems to run the gamut of socio-economic status."
Fulton said neither rate would be palatable but the lower rate was dismissed by the board with little real discussion.
"It was as if a 'Go for the Gold' attitude swept them and the taxpayers are saying 'Whoa,' " she said. "I, and many others, feel that these two new buildings are not needed and much more could be done to add space at several of the already existing buildings."