Marietta BOE to discuss buildings Monday

A major public meeting is scheduled for Monday, Feb. 3, to consider issues crucial to the future of Marietta City Schools, and Monday night the board of education decided to hold the meeting in the auditorium of Marietta High School.

The board, expecting a substantial crowd, checked with high school principal Chad Rinard at its regular monthly meeting Monday night to be sure the auditorium would be available.

Since the district levy to build new schools was defeated more than two months ago, the board and district administration have been looking at ways to move forward in view of the need to reduce the building space used for education. The district’s six buildings were made to accommodate more than 4,000 students, and the current enrollment is less than 2,600.

Superintendent Will Hampton was directed to analyze the district situation and present options on ways to make best use of the buildings it has.

“Last week I met with the district, and we walked through scenarios. The board will go through it next week, looking at the facilities,” Hampton said. “I appreciate the attention people have given it, and we want to make sure we make the right decision.”

The options Hampton referred to are ways to make the district more compact and efficient while delivering a good education. They likely will include proposals to close one or more of the school buildings.

The board and administration have said that the levy results from November – the proposal was defeated with 57 percent voting against it – were an indication that they had failed to reach a large block of voters.

“We struggle because we’re hitting the same audience every time; there’s a group we need to make connections with that we’re not reaching,” board member Stacy Hall said.

The administration has been exploring the possibility of using a system called Thoughtexchange, a crowdsourcing public relations platform. Treasurer Frank Antill said he had met a member of the Thoughtexchange team but was unable to connect with a school district that had used the system.

Hampton said adopting such a system would require a full-time commitment from a staff member.

“It takes a lot to manage this system, but that doesn’t mean it’s off the table,” he said.

“We’re in a period of time when we need a lot of engagement going on as we develop a long term plan,” board vice president Russ Garrison said. “It would be nice to have a communications director or a business manager for the district, but we just don’t have the resources.”

Garrison said he thought it would be “worth giving the system a trial,” and the board asked Antill to gather more information and add it to the Feb. 3 agenda.

That meeting will start at 6 p.m. in the Marietta High School auditorium.

Antill noted that it would still be possible to put the building levy on the ballot in November and preserve the financial commitment from the state.

“The OFCC (Ohio Facilities Construction Commission) approved our funding, but if we don’t pass it in November, it will be a three- to seven-year wait,” he said. The state has committed to cover 39 percent of approved construction costs, which would have amounted to about $30 million of the project.

In other matters, the board:

¯ Passed resolutions to continue the district membership in the Ohio High School Athletics Association; and to oppose legislation that would drastically expand the EdChoice voucher system, and legislation that would remove the educational improvement requirements for townships to secede from school districts.

¯ Heard several statements in support of the job Marietta High School principal Chad Rinard is doing.