Delaware City Schools levy: Pandemic highlighted technology needs, superintendent says

Paul Comstock
ThisWeek

Costs associated with the COVID-19 coronavirus are among the many daily operating expenses that would be covered by the Delaware City Schools' operating levy on the Nov. 3 ballot.

The levy would renew a 10-year operating levy that voters approved in 2010 but as a continuing, or permanent, levy.

Heidi Kegley

After a spring of remote learning, the district resumed classes in August with a hybrid model that alternates in-school and remote learning.

More:Delaware City Schools levy to help cover myriad daily expense

The pandemic has increased the district's use of technology, which "has always been an important component for our academics," said Superintendent Heidi Kegley.

"Our seventh- and eighth-graders, as well as our sixth-graders, really have a one-for-one (computer) device (used for remote learning). Our sixth-graders don't take those devices home with them ordinarily in a typical school year,” she said. “However, all of our students have access to devices if they are needed to take them home in this remote at-home learning environment."

Internet access also is a priority, she said.

"We also last year purchased several (Wi-Fi) hotspots for families to use at their homes if they did not have Internet access. We have purchased additional hotspots this year for families to use if they're in the online academy, learning at home, or if they are in the hybrid model for that at-home learning time," Kegley said. "So technology is an important component to our academics, and we have supported those needs for our families both in our classrooms and at home."

The district uses Chromebooks for middle and high school students and Chromebooks and iPads for elementary students.

"It depends on the grade level and the online learning needs of individual children and their educational programming," Kegley said.

Another vital role for the levy is to maintain the district's top priority of academics, Kegley said. 

"Obviously, that has been a priority for us and will continue to be a priority -- students receiving an excellent education in the classroom. What that means for us at our buildings is maintaining our class sizes,” she said. “We have always worked hard to make sure our teachers have optimal class sizes for instruction within their classrooms. Right now, across our five elementaries, that is something we have been committed to and able to facilitate for our students."

The middle schools and high school continue to have that focus, she said, adding that smaller class sizes always have been important to maximize classroom instruction.

Some of the district's routine expenses in operating 361 classrooms are considerable. They include annual expenditures for water, sewer, electricity, natural gas, telephone and garbage collection, which, district communications director Jennifer Ruhe said, totals $1.3 million. 

Routine operating expenses also include teachers, transportation, basic utilities and student safety, Ruhe said.

One expense that isn’t connected with the levy is the district's program to upgrade all school buildings this year, Kegley said. That work is funded by a bond issue voters approved in 2019.

More:Delaware City Schools building projects are on schedule

The Nov. 3 renewal would not increase the levy's cost to homeowners, according to district treasurer Melissa Swearingen.

Shari Baker, director of tax administration at the Delaware County Auditor's Office, has said the levy is collected at an effective rate of 11.73 mills and costs homeowners $359 annually per $100,000 of property valuation.

The 2010 levy was designed to raise $9.4 million annually, representing 27% of the district’s property-tax collections for operating expenses, the district said.

The 2010 issue replaced a 12.9-mill, five-year levy approved by voters in 2006.

Although Election Day is Nov. 3, overseas and military absentee voting began Sept. 18 and early in-person and mail-in absentee voting began Oct. 6, according to the Ohio Secretary of State's Office voting schedule.

Early in-person voting is held at the Delaware County Board of Elections offices, 2079 U.S. Route 23 North.

Weekday hours for the vote center are 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Oct. 26-30. Hours will be 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Nov. 2.

The vote center also will be open 1 to 5 p.m. Sundays, Oct. 25 and Nov. 1.

editorial@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekNews