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Task force to seek community input

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Meeting regularly since its formation last spring by then-Yellow Springs Superintendent Mario Basora, the schools facilities task force is close to taking its findings out into the community in a series of public meetings, where members plan to share the information they’ve gathered and collect feedback.

The places and dates are yet to be finalized, but members are compiling a list of sites as well as local groups and organizations they might approach later this month or early in November.

In the six months since the group began its work, the task force has:

• Examined facilities assessments conducted by the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission, or OFCC, and the Fanning Howey engineering and design firm;

• Met with the district treasurer to learn more about levies and other funding sources;

• Met with the district’s heads of maintenance and technology;

• Conducted two separate tours of both school campuses; and

• Spent several meetings identifying building needs and considering priorities of need.

“This has been an enormous learning curve,” group facilitator Mel Marsh said in July.

New focus

The enormity of the undertaking led the group in mid-summer to shift its original two-fold purpose of identifying problems in the buildings and considering possible solutions to a single focus of developing a prioritized list of problems alone.

The shift was prompted by new Superintendent Terri Holden, who officially joined the district Aug.1, but met with the task force regularly after her hiring in June.

The task force had already, earlier in the summer, developed a list of five “guiding principles,” or values, that the members would use when evaluating the priority or seriousness of identified problems.

The five guiding themes are:

• Affordability,

• Maintenance,

• Health, safety and security,

• 21st-century skills and

• Yellow Springs community values.

Task force members recognized that the principles were not necessarily equal, but each had merit for the Yellow Springs school district.

“For example, affordability is not quite the same as health and safety, but it was a message we heard loudly from the community,” facilitator Marsh summarized during the group’s July 3 meeting.

With those principles in mind, the task force began working through the Fanning Howey assessment, taking each of the individually listed categories — such as plumbing, the building envelop (outside walls, windows, roof, etc.), accessibility, electrical, technology — and developing a summary “headline” for each.

Those headlines are a large part of what they plan to share in the upcoming community meetings.

Moving forward

At its Sept. 4 meeting, the task force committed to holding community meetings in October and November.

“It is an important part of our work to share our findings and listen to the community’s perspective,” Kat Walter said.

Community input will help the task force formulate its eventual presentation to the school board, Chris Hamilton said.

“We would not have all of the information to share with the board, if we don’t talk with and listen to the community,” he said.

Member Lori Kuhns agreed. “The survey we did showed a lack of trust of the school board. … Our communication with the public is a way to rebuild the trust.”

The superintendent’s goal is to have a task force report ready for the school board’s December meeting.

The group’s next two meetings are Wednesday, Oct. 9, and 16, from 6–8 p.m., when members will finalize plans for the community feedback meetings. The task force’s work meetings are open to the public for observation, but not comment.


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