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Education

Woodridge begins planning new school, financing

6/26/2014 - West Side Leader
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By Becky Tompkins

Board will hold planning meeting on facilities overhaul July 8

Since the decision by the Woodridge Local Schools Board of Education June 4 to build a new elementary school and renovate the middle school and high school, the focus has shifted to putting a bond issue on the ballot to raise the $33 million it will cost for the master facilities overhaul.

Woodridge Treasurer Deanna Levenger reported at the board’s June 17 meeting there are many hoops to jump through to put a bond issue on the Nov. 4 General Election ballot, and there is much the board has not yet decided about the project, such as how much exactly the district could borrow, how long the district would need to pay for it and what exactly it would be paying for. All of that would need to be learned or decided by late July, she said, which seemed “really rushed.”

Board member Marilyn Hansen pointed out the board members don’t even know what kind of school they want — a three-story or four-story, with a basement or without. She asked if the district will buy all new equipment and furniture for the new school or use the old furniture from the current primary and intermediate buildings, which will be replaced by the new school.

There are many unknowns about the project at this point, and board members expressed concern about rushing it, especially in presenting the plans to the community.

Board Vice President George DeBord stressed the need to “do it right.”

“We need to do our homework and present the message well,” he said, so the community will support the bond issue.

Levenger said the board could put a bond issue for $33 million, Woodridge’s debt limit for a bond issue, on the May 2015 ballot, but the district would not be able to borrow as much, $1.26 million less than that if the board put it on the November 2014 ballot because the district has a large debt payment to make in December.

Superintendent Walter Davis suggested holding a special meeting to begin planning specifics for the new elementary school and the renovations of the middle and high schools, so the board could see exactly what will be needed.

The board scheduled the special planning meeting for July 8 at 6 p.m. at the administration building, 4411 Quick Road. The consultants who directed the creation of the master facilities plan will be there, along with the district’s bond counsel and other experts, Davis said.

The meeting will be open to the public but will not be a public forum. The regular meeting procedure of interested citizens being able to address the board for 3 minutes each at the beginning or end of the meeting will be followed, said board President Jan Flasco.

In other business, Davis reported the results of the recent third-grade reading test had just arrived, and there were only three children who did not earn a proficient score. The district is providing “intensive intervention” this summer, he said, for those three and several other students who are struggling in reading.

The students may take the test again in the summer, and if they pass, they will be promoted to fourth grade with their peers and not held back in third, following the state-mandated third-grade reading guarantee.

The teachers for the summer reading instruction are being paid by a federal grant, not out of the General Fund, Davis said, and at no cost to the students’ parents.

Davis also presented an update on the Common Core educational standards program since, he said, he has had numerous questions about it.

One misconception about it, he said, is that Common Core represents a federal takeover of the public schools. It is not a federal government program but rather a set of core standards that have been created by a consortium of states, he said. Joining the group is optional, and originally 45 states signed on, although some states have dropped out since then, for what he believes are “political” reasons.

The standards affect only English language arts and math, he said. Here they are called Ohio’s new learning standards, and they focus on fewer topics but in greater depth, emphasizing critical thinking, Davis said. New science and social studies standards have been developed by people in Ohio in the past few years, he said.

New standards call for new assessments, and Woodridge is ready for the new testing, the superintendent said.

One big challenge is identifying and getting teacher resources; the book/teaching materials companies haven’t kept up with the new standards, he said. Many teachers are creating their own materials, he said.

The Common Core is not a curriculum; it does not tell school districts what it must teach, Davis said. The curriculum doesn’t change — “algebra is algebra,” he said. Woodridge has integrated the standards into its curriculum and the teachers are teaching from them, he concluded.

He recommended www.corestandards.org as a good site for more information about Common Core.

The board’s next regular meeting is scheduled for July 15 at 6 p.m. at the Woodridge administration building, 4411 Quick Road.

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