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School board considers sale of land

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A recently conducted land-use study of property owned by Yellow Springs Schools concluded that the district has about 23 acres of “underutilized land” that “could be considered for subdivision and redevelopment as residential properties.”

District Superintendent Mario Basora presented a summary of the study, conducted by McBride Dale Clarion, a Cincinnati-based planning, zoning and development firm, to the Yellow Springs school board at its most recent regular meeting in May.

Basora said that the study’s findings address two issues: financing the district’s identified need to upgrade local school facilities, and a need for more affordable housing in the village.

“After the [May 2017 facilities] levy failed, some things were clear,” Basora said. “Affordability is a real concern in our community.”

For Basora, the issues of facility upgrades and affordability are connected on a deeper level than raising enough money to pay for renovations or new construction.

The issues are affecting the makeup of the village, which is increasingly skewing toward an older, senior population, he said.

“New families are not moving into the district,” Basora asserted.

“Maybe there’s a way to offset the cost of a levy and provide more affordable housing” at the same time, he added.

The district owns two properties with a total of 43.8 acres. Out of that, the recent study identified three sections with “development potential:” 4.8 acres on the west side of the Mills Lawn property and 18.13 acres divided between the north and south sides of the high/middle school campus.

The Mills Lawn property is currently zoned R-C high density residential, which allows a mix of single-family, multifamily and accessory dwellings. The study found that the site could yield 30 to 62 new residential dwellings depending on the mix of housing types.

The larger high/middle school property is zoned R-A low density residential, which allows single-family detached homes and accessory dwelling units. According to the study, the site could support more than 100 new single-family homes.

All told, 134 to 166 new residences are possible, the study found. And with those homes could come as many as 330 new students, the study projected.

In a follow-up interview this week, Basora said that attracting young families to the village and increasing the schools’ local enrollment is vital to the future health of the district.

As of this week, only 17 local students are registered for kindergarten next year. While the numbers will likely grow before classes resume in August, Basora said the figure is alarming.

The numbers could potentially be raised through open enrollment, he added, but he is cautious about that solution, as the community has indicated “mixed feelings” this past year about enrolling students from outside the local district.

Regardless, the district needs more families with school-age children.

“I think at the crux of it is the issue of affordability and affordable family housing,” he said.

“The community has been more focused on senior housing, to the detriment of family housing,” he added. “I’m frustrated because I think children and families have been left out of the discussion, and they need to be number one.”

He said he worries that the failed levy not only signals the community’s affordability concerns, but also sent a message to potential new residents that the community doesn’t support the local schools.

The land-use study concluded that the sale of district property for development would bring in significant revenue.

The appraised value of the 4.8 acres at Mills Lawn is $2,742,990; while the two areas combined at the high/middle school are valued at $5,023,420, Basora told the board.

If the Mills Lawn site was developed, the school could reap $30,000 to $60,000 in additional annual property tax revenue and $18,000 to $38,000 in additional annual income tax revenue, the study concluded.

Increased tax revenue from the high/middle school site could bring in nearly $104,000 in annual property taxes and $65,000 in annual income taxes. The properties’ incomes combined could bring in nearly $270,000 a year in taxes, or 3 percent of the current annual budget, Basora told school board members last month.

He concluded that there is still much to consider:

“How do we work with the village on this? What implications does this information have for the schools facilities task force? How much revenue gains reduce costs of our facilities needs? What are the deed restrictions on the property? Can the board be the developer? And if not, can the board work closely with the DCIC to develop property?

Board President Steve Conn said he welcomed the study’s findings.

“I will confess that I am one of the people pushing” to consider the possibility of selling district land, Conn said.

Board member TJ Turner agreed with the importance of examining the district’s land use.

“We are a district with under 800 students, sitting on 45 acres of land,” Turner said. “There’s just a mismatch there.”

The land use study offers a place to begin, Basora said.

“This is a conversation started about what’s possible.”

In other recent school board business:

Teachers address board

Two teachers — Kate Lohmeyer, who teaches health and physical education at Yellow Springs High School and McKinney Middle School, and Sarah Amin,  a sixth-grade teacher at Mills Lawn — spoke separately to the board during the community comments section of the May meeting agenda.

Reading from a written statement, Lohmeyer called for a collaborative visioning about the future of public education between administration and teachers.

“It is time for courageous vision. I want to be part of shaping a new courageous vision,” she said.

Lohmeyer suggested that Yellow Springs could be a leader in framing new educational models with broad reach.

“I believe secondary education is on the cusp of a monumental shift,” she said, concluding: “Together, let’s redefine what public education can be.”

Amin, also reading from a written statement, asked the board to consider district policies on evaluating teachers based upon state-mandated student assessments.

She said that there is a conflict between the district’s focus on teaching students to be “fearless, take risks and fail forward” and the “state-mandated testing culture,” which “does not hold the same values.”

Amin said that state-testing results do not reflect the work and learning that is happening in local classrooms, where the curriculum focuses on a Project-based Learning-focused model. Because that testing also is used as a state measure of teacher effectiveness, it puts teachers in a bind, trying to find a balance between risk-taking and testing success.

“We need to engage in conversations around the impact of the PBL initiative on our work environment, our school culture, teacher expectations, content curriculum and student learning,” she said.

Project-based learning presentations

Students from several high school classes presented the board with the results of recent PBL units.

Athletes and students in Emily Cormier’s AP art class collaborated this year in an initiative titled “If You were in My Shoes,” reported on an an earlier News feature.

Attending the May meeting to share their project with the board were Cormier, athletes Tyler Linkhart and Haneefah Jones and art student Sumayah Chappelle.

Athletes and artists were paired to design a sports shoe representing “a cause … something they were passionate about,” Chappelle said. Twenty-two pairs of shoes were designed and decorated in all. Nike donated 11 pairs and the Yellow Springs Educational Endowment funded the other 11 pairs.

Topics included “health and environment, social, a little of everything, which I really like,” Cormier said, adding that she plans to do the project again next year.

Six students from Iyabo Eguaroje’s ninth-grade biology class detailed their study into the school lunch program, asking, “How healthy is our food and what can we do as a school community to improve it?”

They quickly established that “the students at our school are not happy with the way things are now,” the students agreed.

The biology students noted that while lunch should be healthy and nutritious for the sake of all students, it also may serve as “the one sufficient meal of the day” for students from low-income homes, “so it needs to be a healthy one.”

In looking at the current lunches, the students found the foods were heavy in sugars and starch without much protein. And they noted that the current lunch provider, the international corporation Sodexo, also has contracts with prisons.

In addition, the lunches don’t provide many vegan, vegetarian or gluten-free options, the students told the board. Stella Lieff pointed out that the vegetarian burger is served with melted cheese on top, which makes it inedible for vegans.

While the ninth-grade biology students were conducting their study, students of Dave Smith’s freshman French class undertook a related comparison of American school lunches and French school lunches. 

The students said they found profound differences, with the French menus focusing on fresh, local ingredients, while the American meals featured a lot of highly processed selections. 

They also noted that culturally, Americans tend not to put a lot of time into taking lunch, while the French devote up to two hours to their mid-day meal.

The students of the two classes collaboratively concluded that they would like to see the district make an effort to provide more fresh, and ideally local, foods.

They suggested that the district hire a nutritionist, and asked that the board make nutritious school lunches “a top priority.”

The board commended the students on their presentation.

“There are a lot of things worth following up on,” board President Conn said.

Superintendent Basora said he wanted to set up a meeting with the students the next week to explore ways the district might follow up on their recommendations.

Building principal reports

With the end of the school year looming, the building principals said that their students were busy with end-of year activities.

Mills Lawn Principal Matt Housh highlighted two recent events at the elementary school, the return of the fifth-sixth-grade dance and a “Pop In for Art & Music” gathering.

Yellow Springs High School and McKinney Middle School Principal Jack Hatert reported that the 2019 Junior Senior Prom was well-attended and offered congratulations to Audree Speaks and Tariq Muhammad, who were crowned this year’s queen and king.

Hatert also reported that the school’s theater program would have a different schedule next year in hopes of relieving some of the time pressures on student actors. He said that a showcase-style performance would be offered in the fall, the annual musical will be presented in December and a stage play will be produced in the spring.

Summer school at Mills Lawn

The board approved a two-week summer intervention reading and math program, for two-and-a-half hours each week day, July 29 through Aug. 9, at Mills Lawn Elementary.

Relatedly, the board approved Cheryl Lowe as coordinator of the program, at $25 an hour for a maximum of 12 hours, and approved intervention teacher contracts for Olivia Dishmon, Cheryl Lowe, Debra Mabra and Jody Pettiford at $12 an hour at a maximum of 12 hours per person.

Teacher resignation

The board accepted a resignation letter from Maggie Davis, a sixth-grade teacher at Mills Lawn who has taken a job in another school district next year.

Superintendent Basora said the district did not plan to fill the position for the coming school year because of an anticipated smaller sixth-grade class. 

Expiring teacher contracts renewed

The board approved new contracts with the following teachers: 

•For the 2019–20 school year: Emily Cormier, Yellow Springs High School/McKinney Middle School art; Alicia Horvath, MMS math; Naomi Hyatt, Mills Lawn School intervention specialist; and Joe Carr, MLS PBL foundations.

•For the 2020–21 school year: Amanda Kinney, first grade; Ryan Montross, fifth grade; Brian Mayer , instrumental music; Courtney O’Conner, MMS social studies; Chris Sidner, Spanish; and Lorrie Sparrow-Knapp, YSHS/MMS performing arts.

•For the 2021–22 school year: Robert Grote, MLS physical education. 

• Through the 2023–24 school year: Carrie Juergens, fourth grade; Kevin Lydy, YSHS social studies; Chasity Miller, MLS intervention specialist; and Jeananne Turner-Smith, kindergarten.

Other personnel actions

Continuing contracts were approved for Kelley Oberg, Lauren Sullivan and Tamsin Trelawny-Cassity, as special education aides, and Cara Haywood, as assistant to the treasurer.

Also receiving a new contract was Charlyn Cantrell, as school nurse, effective Aug. 1, 2019, through July 31, 2021.

Olivia Dishmon was approved as a summer tutor for a student with special needs, effective Monday, June 3, at $25 an hour for a maximum of 24 hours. And the board approved 10 additional paid work days for the 2019–20 school year for YSHS counselors Dave Smith ($4,535) and Shannon Morano ($2,897).

Supplemental contracts through the conclusion of the 2018–19 school year were approved for Mills Lawn teachers Debra Mabra and Mikasa Simms, as IDEAL grant mentor teachers, $500 for each. 

High school coaching contracts

Supplemental athletic contracts for the 2019–20 school year were approved for:

•John Gudgel, as YSHS co-ed assistant cross country coach, $2,245;

•Christine Linkhart, as YSHS women’s volleyball coach, $3,683;

•Phillip Renfro, as YSHS women’s reserve volleyball coach, $1,684;

•Stephanie Zinger, as McKinney Middle School eight-grade volleyball coach, $1,824;

•Isabelle Dierauer, as YSHS co-ed cross country coach, $3,122;

•Ben VanAusdal, as YSHS men’s head soccer coach, $4,595;

•Marcus Rixon, as YSHS women’s head soccer coach, $4,349;

•Megan Caldwell, as YSHS women’s assistant soccer coach, $2,946.

Upcoming meetings

The board is scheduled to meet in executive session on Friday, June 7, to discuss contract negotiations with the teachers union. The next regular meeting is Thursday, June 13, beginning at 7 p.m., in the John Graham Conference Room at Mills Lawn School.



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