Campaign for Gahanna-Jefferson Public Schools' Issue 22 in motion

MARLA K. KUHLMAN
mkuhlman@thisweeknews.com
ThisWeek group

Two mothers of Gahanna-Jefferson Public School students are co-chairing Residents Building a Brighter Future, a committee to promote Issue 22, a three-part tax issue on the Nov. 3 ballot for the schools.

Cait Masarik and Carrin Wester are steering the committee and will work with parents and some district leaders to provide information about the issue before the vote.

District Superintendent Steve Barrett said the millage request for the second phase of the master facilities plan includes a 4.93-mill bond issue and a 1.5-mill permanent-improvements levy, for a total of 6.43 mills.

If approved, the issue would finance the construction of a new Lincoln High School at its current site and additions to other district buildings.

Barrett said the district also is seeking a 4.26-mill operating levy to hire additional staff to keep pace with increasing enrollment and meet additional costs related to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

The bond issue, operating levy and permanent-improvements levy total 10.69 mills.

The additional cost for the total package would be $31 per month or $374 annually per $100,000 of assessed property value, according to Judy Hengstebeck, communications coordinator for the district.

Barrett said the district has deferred the funding request for a long time, and project costs have increased as a result.

As a lifelong Gahanna resident, a Gahanna Lincoln High School graduate and a parent of a district student, Masarik said she has seen the community and district grow.

"What I have not seen in my nearly 30 years in Gahanna are permanent and proactive solutions to our growing community," she said. "The passage of Issue 2 in 2018, however, was inspiring. It showed me that our community was ready to address the needs of our district in a thoughtful and long-term approach.

"With Issue 22, we are asking our community for their permission to continue addressing the needs of our schools and the students our district serves."

Masarik said the ballot issue would continue to foster a better environment for all students to learn, grow and succeed.

"I am excited to work on something that I feel is so important to the success of our students, district and community for years to come," she said.

Wester, a parent of two district students, said she is happy to help with the effort.

"There has been constant turmoil and uncertainty in 2020, and we understand the timing of this levy isn't ideal," she said. "Our vote this fall is really about the quality of education our students will have two years, five years and 10 years from now. We have to make those choices now, and we will see the benefits in the very near future."

Masarik said it's really important to the committee to have input and involvement from parents at every school. Thus far, she said, the committee has representatives from Goshen Lane, Blacklick and High Point elementary schools and Gahanna Middle School East.

"Due to COVID-19, this levy campaign will work a bit differently than our campaign for the first phase, Issue 2, in the spring of 2018," Masarik said. "An official kickoff party will not be happening in the traditional sense, since we are not holding in-person town halls and coffee conversations."

She said some virtual meetings or smaller town halls would be scheduled.

Anyone interested in being host for a "coffee conversation" with Barrett should email cait.masarik@gmail.com.

"We are committed to getting detailed information about Issue 22 into the hands of voters before early voting starts on Oct. 6," Masarik said. "We are also committed to keeping our volunteers and community safe."

She said that means the committee will utilize more strategies to reach voters where they are without knocking on their doors.

"We are actively working on our website to go 'live' so that community members can access the information they need to make an informed decision at any time of the day," Masarik said. "Additionally, we will be primarily be using mailers, literature and social media."

The group's Facebook page is "Vote for Gahanna-Jefferson Public Schools Levy."

"We realize it is a challenging time to ask people to vote for a school levy, but we know that the future of the district is determined by what we do now," Masarik said. "Our district leadership, including our school board, has repeatedly said, 'We need to ask for permission from our community to make decisions and plan for the future of our district.' "

Sarah Narloch a committee member and parent involved with Blacklick Elementary School, said she is helping the campaign because she loves the children in the community.

"And I feel the best way I can love and support them is to make sure they have a safe, adequate and up-to-date space to grow and flourish," Narloch said. "The same needs exist in our GJPS buildings regardless of the events of 2020. I just want to do whatever I can to help make this happen."

mkuhlman@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekMarla