Marietta City Schools has public meeting on levy
MARIETTA – One down, 17 to go.
The Marietta City Schools Levy Committee held the first of many public sessions Tuesday morning in the basement meeting room of the Washington County Public Library. Board member Russ Garrison was the resource person for the meeting – he expects to be at all of them – and four local citizens came in to see his presentation and ask questions.
The district is proposing an $85 million building project, and voters will decide whether to accept it, and the $55 million local property owners will have to pay, when they go to the polls Nov. 5.
“It’s a process,” Garrison explained. “You identify the needs, the options for the project, the size of the building. Then comes the bond levy, and if it’s successful, you get the engineering and architectural services, the traffic studies. You don’t want to spend the money on that and then have voters reject it. That’s thousands of dollars that could be spent on other things. We know people want specifics, but that comes later. The answers we have now can only be in terms of vision.”
Bob Springer, who identified himself as a former educator, said his experience indicated that some children in lower grades are always ready to move ahead.
“I’ve seen middle school kids ready for high school courses,” he said. “This will open the road to more opportunities for students.”
The levy proposal would build a complex of schools on the Washington State Community College campus, consolidating an array of elementary and secondary schools into one set of structures within walking distance of the college.
“Middle school students can be exposed to Washington State Community College on a routine basis,” Garrison said. “Schools already are changing. Two years ago, only 37 percent of our students had the traditional high school experience. That means 63 percent had dual enrollment, online courses, off-campus courses. Things are changing and shifting, there’s more project-based learning, and whether we get new buildings or not, we still have to step up.”
“It’s hard to facilitate middle school students taking high school or college courses in separate buildings,” he said.
The district now has six school buildings, and Garrison said he encourages people to think about the educational efficiency of a single complex rather than thinking of economic efficiency.
“We have one or two nurses, counselors, for the whole district, and the same for building security,” he said. “They spend a lot of their time traveling, but in a single complex they can respond faster and better, and faculty can teach better and more effectively.”
Ron Surella, who identified himself as a retired banker, asked whether the district would retire any of the existing levies if the November proposal is successful. The district now collects several levies that were instituted over decades.
The Permanent Improvement Levy is used for capital expenses for items expected to last more than five years and is drawn on heavily to keep the districts old buildings in repair, but Garrison noted that it also is used for items like technology purchases, buses and curriculum. He said operating levies could help shore up teacher pay.
“We’re at the low end of the pay schedule, and we could use that to help attract teachers,” he said.
Garrison didn’t specifically answer the question of whether any levies would be retired.
Andy Kuhn, executive director for the Southeastern Ohio Port Authority, noted that the area is a “net exporter” of talent.
“New school facilities could keep families here,” he said. “That’s one of the niceties that the community needs to compete.”
Garrison said when people thinking of moving to Marietta inquire about the city’s schools, he encourages them to look at the education programs before they look at the schools.
“Many people are going to select Williamstown, Vienna or Warren,” Springer said. “People like to have their kids in new, very nice, progressive schools, and new schools would be a tremendous advantage. And the kids understand that, too. They think, somebody really likes me.”
The next meeting will be held at the library meeting room today from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. The meetings will continue through Oct. 31.