September 1, 2014

Medina
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70°F

Medina schools: Interim superintendent talks levy repercussions

Interim Medina Schools Superintendent Dave Knight took questions from community members and spoke in detail about November’s levy at a Thursday night forum.

“Everyone wants to know, not just what happens if it passes, but what happens if it fails,” Knight said.

Medina Schools interim Superintendent Dave Knight speaks to about 50 parents and school staff about the November levy in one of a series of community meetings, this one conducted Thursday night at Heritage Elementary School. (GAZETTE PHOTO BY KIERA MANION-FISCHER)

Knight said the district will need to cut $3 million from its budget over the next five years if the levy fails and no new money is approved.

He and district administrators came up with a plan that would cut $1 million from the budget. It includes closing Heritage Elementary School in 2014 and creating “banded” elementary schools with two grades at each building; eliminating middle school sports and extracurricular activities; and reducing electives at Medina High School.

Knight said the administration was unable to come up with the $3 million in cuts.

“We came back to the board and said, ‘It can’t be done,’ ” he said.

About 50 people attended Knight’s presentation at Heritage, one of a series of community meetings to provide a forum for people to ask questions about the upcoming five-year, 5.9-mill levy on the Nov. 5 ballot.

If approved, the levy would cost the owner of a $100,000 home about $206 a year.

This was the second of at least five planned meetings organized by the district.

The superintendent said the plan to close Heritage and shift to banded schools is intended to maximize class sizes and would not benefit students educationally.

Knight explained that the district’s newest elementary schools — Eliza Northop and Ralph E. Waite —opened when district elementary schools had an average class size of 22.

Now he said, “we have six, maybe seven elementary class sizes with 33 kids across the district. Some are still 24.”

Since voters have not approved new operating money since 2005, the district has increased class sizes and cut programs and staff over the past four years, Knight said.

The plan to shift to the banded elementary school concept will save the district $605,000, Knight said.

“Our biggest savings will come from cutting approximately 14 teachers,” he said.

If the levy is approved, though, the district would keep neighborhood elementary schools, add reading, gifted intervention and guidance counselors at the elementary level, as well as more art, music and gym classes. There would be more opportunities for high school electives, and the levy would bring back busing for all students who live a mile or more from their school.

One parent asked: “Five years down the road, is Heritage still going to be on the chopping block?”

Knight said he was unable to predict the future.

“The task at hand is really this November,” he said. He added that asking for local support is “how we fund schools in the state of Ohio.”

Knight also shared a levy-themed PowerPoint presentation, which is available on the district’s website at www.medinabees.org.

Contact reporter Kiera Manion-Fischer at (330) 721-4049 or kfischer@medina-gazette.com.