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School board— Vote clears way for potential land purchases

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At its April meeting, the Yellow Springs Board of Education unanimously passed a resolution that will allow the Yellow Springs school district to enter into negotiations regarding the purchase of land for future school buildings.

The question of land accompanies the district’s interest in new school facilities. The district is currently exploring options for building new facilities or rehabilitating the current buildings as one of the benchmarks of its Strategic 2020 plan. In both cases, the current options utilize the land already owned by the district. The resolution allows the district to present the community with a broader range of potential building sites, said District Superintendent Mario Basora.

“The best option is presenting all opportunities just so the community knows what’s out there,” Basora said in an interview this week. “We just don’t want to limit our options to the current sites, and we would need to know the sale price of land [the district is interested in] before sharing the option with the community.”

The district Dayton firm Ruetschle Architects was hired in February to help the district engage with the public in a series of meetings intended to gather villager input about the project, the first of which was held last month. Pending community approval, the district aims to have a design for the new school(s) finalized by December of this year, and a levy funding the project on the ballot in spring 2018. But if the community does not want new school buildings, the district will not move forward with the project, Basora said. 

At the community engagement forum last month, six different building options were presented to the community, all of which make use of the district’s current properties. Construction options presented at the forum ranged in price from $16–30 million. The levy funding construction would be 6.6 to 12.7 mills, which equates to $230–445 per year for every $100,000 of property value.

According to Basora, reasons for building new facilities include structural problems associated with the current buildings and the desire for a building that accommodates the district’s changing pedagogical approach.

“Districts have to think pretty broadly about new facilities,” he said this week. “It’s a big investment to make, and we want to make sure [the facilities] are there for 50–60 years.”

It is “too early to tell” what would happen to the current buildings if the community decided to build a new school on a new site, he said.

The next community facilities forum will be on Thursday, May 4, at 6:30 p.m. in the Mills Lawn gym.

In other school board business:

• Yellow Springs resident Al Schlueter spoke at last week’s board meeting, commending the district’s recent project-based learning activities as presented at a recent exhibition night, and the eloquence of the YSHS students who spoke at a recent Unitarian Universalist fellowship about their experiences as students of color. However, he said, the students cited concerns at the fellowship that recent incidents in which students made racist and anti-Semitic comments toward other students went “unaddressed” by district officials. As such, Schlueter suggested a stronger response to discriminatory language and a better support network for students victimized by such comments.

Responding to Schlueter’s comments, Basora noted at the meeting that students sometimes assume that the generally accepting atmosphere of Yellow Springs obviates the need for heightened sensitivity. The students who witnessed the incidents but didn’t say indicates a worrying complacence or an uncertainty on how to address such issues, he said.

McKinney Middle School and YSHS Principal Tim Krier acknowledged the difficulties experienced by some students and noted that the schools have undertaken some efforts designed to address discriminatory thinking, such as a weeklong “implicit bias cleanse” to help students recognize racial and gender prejudice and the recent collaboration between YSHS students and students from area colleges to create in-depth Black History Month programming. 

“It’s a particularly conflicted time,” Krier said. “We’ve got to do better” with handling these issues. 

• The McKinney Middle School Power of the Pen team recently made it to the regional competitions, at which, according to a handout at the meeting, group advisor and English teacher Jaime Adoff said “We came, we wrote, we kicked notebooks!” The seventh grade team earned first place overall, and the seventh and eighth grade team won the “Sweepstakes Trophy” for best combined score.

• Ara Beal, the theater arts producer for McKinney Middle School and YSHS gave a presentation on YSHS thespians’ recent trip to the Ohio Educational Theater Conference in Dublin, Ohio. Thirty-three students went to the conference on March 25, at which they attended workshops and performances by other high school troupes. YSHS students were also invited to do a performance of “Oklahoma!” at the conference, one of 18 schools across Ohio given such an honor. 

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