Olentangy Schools officials were paying close attention March 17 as the fate of the primary election in Ohio was decided.
With a three-part tax issue on the ballot – a $134.7 million bond issue to fund the construction of a new middle school and two elementary schools; a 0.5-mill permanent-improvements levy to pay for ongoing maintenance and improvement of facilities throughout the district, including technology upgrades; and a 7.4-mill operating levy for such day-to-day expenses as staff salaries and program costs – the election was, and remains, important to the district's future.
With the election delayed by order of Ohio Department of Health director Dr. Amy Acton in reaction to the COVID-19 coronavirus global pandemic, the district will have to adjust some decision-making timetables moving forward, officials said.
“We are disappointed that the primary election is delayed until June, as it creates a number of immediate challenges for the district," Superintendent Mark Raiff said in a statement.
"However, state health officials believe dramatic steps must be taken to slow the spread of disease, and we will weather this storm. We will continue to do everything we can to manage the needs of our district, and we are confident our community will grow stronger and more unified in the weeks and months ahead.”
Olentangy board member Mindy Patrick said she is confident the decision was made for the safety and well-being of the community.
"However," she said, "this directly impacts our ability to open a much-needed elementary school for the fall of 2021 as well as make pertinent decisions moving forward."
Crowded conditions, in particular at the elementary school and middle school levels, were among the reasons the district sought approval of the tax issue, leaders said. Officials had said that March approval would have allowed for the first of two planned elementary schools to open for the start of the 2021 school year.
"We're disappointed we won't know the results of the election (March 17), but the health and safety of the community is the top concern," said Tracy MacDowell, co-chairwoman of the Olentangy for Kids campaign group.
"The vote is on hold until the determination is made when the final vote will be, but the delay in the vote does not change the need," she said. "In the meantime, we will continue to provide information and answer questions."