During last Thursday evening’s Big Walnut Local School District Board of Education meeting, district superintendent Angie Pollock addressed rumors being circulated about the district’s $133.9 million, 8.3-mil bond issue on the November 8 ballot.
Pollock said the bond issue campaign had been intense, especially considering the opposition’s social media presence.
“Some information out there has not been substantiated,” Pollock said. “One resident used a Freedom of Information Act request and took a quote from minutes of the school district’s Facilities Committee meeting. One scenario discussed connecting the high school with the intermediate school, but there wasn’t a cost included in the meeting notes. From those minutes that one individual put out in the community that there was $44.8 million option that we didn’t talk about, that we were hiding from the community. I can assure you if we had a $44.8 million option available to us that would be on the table.”
Pollock said there were three viable options chosen for further discussion – new buildings, renovate and add on to existing buildings, or use modular trailers as classroom space as the district grows. A new elementary building, a new high school, and renovations to existing buildings is the option that met the district’s safety, security, and academic needs.
“It’s frustrating when one community member takes one piece of information and puts it out as an option we were hiding,” Pollock said. “None of us wants to see our kids shoved into a wall or waiting in line for a restroom. If we had a feasible solution at $44.8 million we would do it. There is no reason to hide any of that.”
Pollock said there is an eight-page response to misinformation on the school district’s website at bwls.net. On the district home page left rail click Bond Issue, on the Bond Issue page scroll down to Downloads and click Response to $44.8M Option Rumor, or click FAQs to see all bond issue questions addressed.
Pollock also said some individuals are using social media posts to accuse the school district administration and board of education of fabricating enrollment projections.
Pollock said the district’s goal for Kindergarten through Grade 3 is 25 students in each classroom, 27 students per classroom in grades 4 through 8, and 29 students in grades 9 through 12.
“We’re not going to shove kids into crowded classrooms,” Pollock said. “Based on what the state says capacity is 3,864 students. Based on the state formula we have room for 200 more students. We believe we can accommodate up to 4,027 students based on room usage in the buildings.”
Pollock said to build a high school with a capacity of 1,850 students is a four-year process.
“The normal design process takes a year,” Pollock said. “Then there’s land acquisition and construction. We have six classrooms left in the elementary buildings; by next year we’ll have three elementary classrooms available. If we start now it takes two years to build an elementary school. We cannot wait.”
Board president Mindy Meyer said the one individual putting misinformation in the minds of voters has questioned her integrity.
“He took some pieces of information from a Facilities Committee discussion out there without speaking to anyone who was there to ask if it was true,” Meyer said. “We aren’t hiding anything. A lot of people ask why the outlet mall is not paying for our schools. They don’t understand that we don’t get sales tax. Don’t assume what other people are posting on social media is true.”
Board member Brad Schneider said he remembers attending the facilities committee meetings.
“A lot of ideas were thrown around during those meetings,” Schneider said. “Not one person in the opposition who is posting those things as facts has called any of us to ask if that was an option.”
District Treasurer Terri Eyerman said the one opponent of the bond issue (not named during the discussion) has said that waiting until 2017 to go on the ballot would save property owners $6 million.
“The reality of it is, waiting until a later election would not eliminate the debt,” Eyerman said. “Delaying the debt, if anything, would cost more because interest rates and construction costs are going up. We want to make the best long-term decisions we can for our community.”
Pollock said the nature of public education is such that everyone who moves into the school district can send their children to Big Walnut schools.
“We can’t shut the door behind us; nobody shut the door behind any of us when we came here,” Pollock said. “We can’t control growth, we can’t charge an impact fee, we can’t fund schools with an income tax, and people want to live here. We’re making the best possible decisions that we can. Our job is to make sure our kids get the best education they can. If we could do that for $44.8 million I assure you we would. I encourage you not to believe everything you read online.”
Pollock encouraged everyone to log on to the school district website for accurate bond issue information.
Board member Allison Fagan had the last word in the discussion.
“I invite anyone to disagree with me, but I’m furious that our integrity is being challenged,” Fagan said. “That’s not the community I live in.”
Reporter Lenny C. Lepola can be reached at 614-266-6093.