XENIA — After hearing nearly a dozen Xenia residents — including one student — implore them to not give up on passing a new-construction bond issue, members of the Xenia board of education did just that.
By a 5-0 vote, the board Monday passed the final resolution necessary to place the 4.2 mill, 37 year bond issue on the ballot for the Aug. 8 special election.
If it passes, the district plans to build a combined high school/middle school complex at US Route 35 and State Route 42 in the south part of town. The Ohio Facilities Construction Commission — which determined it is better for the district to build new as opposed to renovating — will provide more than 40 percent of the total cost but that money goes away in August.
The levy would cost the owner of a $100,000 home approximately $12.26 per month. It failed by approximately 900 votes in November and then by a little more than 400 votes May 2. Opponents said they can’t afford the higher tax and that the district should just repair and renovate the current buildings.
Before approving the resolution to proceed with the bond issue, the board sought input from residents — both for and against the bond issue.
Thirteen requested time to address the board and 11 spoke. Former superintendent Jeff Lewis had signed up, but he had to leave early and submitted a letter of support. Another chose not to when his name was called. Of the remaining 11, 10 were emphatically for the bond issue while one appeared to be luke warm.
High school student Jhett Peck was one of the final speakers, but his comments resonated the most.
“Our environment is not thrilling at all,” he said. “I wake up and say ‘Oh, it’s a school day.’ Our high school is dark, depressing. It’s not fun. It’s bad for our education. How can a kid learn? Our bathrooms are absolutely failing miserably.”
He said sometimes students have to walk around for 20 minutes just to find a toilet that works.
“I’m just begging you as a student, do not let this money go,” Peck said.
Rick Williamson said he is a product of Xenia schools and everything he has in live he owes to the school district.
“We owe (current and future students) the same opportunity,” he said, adding that he will need to find a way to afford the higher tax but will do it. He also said that as a scout for the Texas Rangers Major League Baseball team, he sees tons of high schools and knows what Xenia is competing against.
“We have to have competitive facilities,” he said. “We need to give these kids every opportunity.”
Dennis Propes grew up in Cincinnati, went to Colerain High School and chose to move to Xenia.
“We failed you as a community,” he told the board. “We had a wonderful opportunity to do something good for the community.” He said his daughter, who is in a walking boot, had to be carried to class because it wasn’t accessible any other way.
“We can do this as a community,” he said.
Cox librarian Lynn Engle said while working at the old Tecumseh building she would cover all the books with tarps at the end of the year to prevent damage from the leaky roof. Now in the newer Cox library, that isn’t necessary any more. However, the current high school and middle schools have water issues. She urged the board to put it on the ballot again so the district can “grow and blossom.”
Carol Patten taught at Arrowood for more than 30 years. She came from Minnesota and during her junior year, the district opened a new high school. The students carried equipment from the old building to the new building and suggested that the board reduce the amount needed for the bond issue by not purchasing all new equipment and maybe not developing the extra athletic fields right away. She did not say she was totally against the bond issue.
“I care about the kids,” she said.
During board discussion prior to the public comments, President Pam Callahan asked if the current plan could be changed. However, since the resolution of necessity was already passed, the plan has to be placed on the ballot as is, Assistant Superintendent of Business Operations Christy Fielding said.
Contact Scott Halasz at 937-502-4507.
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