Marietta BOE has first in-person meeting since COVID

Marietta City Schools Board of Education met in-person Monday in the cafeteria of the district's high school. (Photo by Janelle Patterson)

Marietta City Schools Board of Education met for the first time in-person Monday, since the coronavirus shutdown.

But no public attended outside of the Times.

Discussion Monday followed usual business meeting trends of the board as past meetings, covering present financials in advance of next month’s five-year forecast exercise, and a repeated all-call for substitute teachers and classified staff.

But while the majority of the meeting remained focused on a general need for more custodians and some other shifts to staffing including two administrative resignations, the three most-discussed issues of the evening were related to coronavirus, consolidation and the bond issue in front of voters through Nov. 3.

Cohort combinations and coronavirus

Transportation is one of the topics up for discussion today during the Times’ live stream question and answer session with the Marietta City Schools Board of Education, tune-in to the Times’ Facebook page at 5 p.m. to watch. (Photo by Janelle Patterson)

The board authorized responsive flexibility due to recent increases in confirmed coronavirus cases in Marietta.

“If we need to stay where we are, I need to be able to do that,” said Superintendent Will Hampton when asking the board to support a modification to the district’s learning plan for blended and remote instruction.

Students in Cohorts 1 and 2 are scheduled to combine for in-person instruction beginning next week, but the resolution, passed by the board Monday, means that more full reopening could be delayed.

“The number of COVID cases has gone up dramatically in Marietta,” said Hampton. “They’re not all isolated to the college.”

But, in sharing caution relaying information he has received from the city health department, Hampton referenced the local intensive care bed capacity.

Memorial Health System clarified following the meeting.

“The community has seen quite an uptick, but we’re not at capacity,” explained Jennifer Offenberger, associate vice president of service excellence. “We do not currently have any COVID patients in our ICU. We do have some in our COVID unit, but none need ICU care at this time.”

She confirmed the increase in patients reported over the last couple of weeks has similarly impacted Marietta Memorial Hospital, with an expansion of the unit for the novel virus up from the four-bed minimum maintained.

“We were at our (four-bed) capacity, we’ve opened up the rest of that unit,” she said, noting the full unit has 12 beds specifically designated. “We have the ability to decrease or increase the capacity of our unit as needed.”

According to the Ohio Department of Health’s last updated statistics on Oct. 20, Washington County is currently using 63.10 percent of its ICU capacity, those numbers are updated weekly.

Consolidation contention

When the board considered a position description change within its classified staff to move the supervision of a groundskeeper (presently an open position) from the buildings and grounds department to the athletic director, contention rose Monday.

Board Member Mark Duckworth pointed to his experiences with the school district’s athletics in challenging the description change.

While he and Board President Mark Duckworth voted against the change Monday, it still passed with the approval of the remaining members Bill Hutchinson, Russ Garrison and Stacey Hall.

Duckworth was invited to produce a full proposal for the board’s consideration next month concerning another part-time position.

Bond issue

The board also approved the gathering, virtually, today of the district’s administrative staff and the board to participate in the Times’ live broadcast at 5 p.m. via the Times’ Facebook page.

The board and staff will be present to answer the public’s questions submitted to the Times concerning the bond issue on the ballot for residents living within the district boundaries.

The bond issue is certified for 5.25 mills with 0.5 mill to be set aside each year for maintenance and repairs with the remaining 4.75 mills to pay down the construction loan of $55,670,000 over 37 years.

If the 5.25 mills bond issue passes property owners of a $100,000 home would see approximately $184 a year added to their tax bill.

The 0.5 mills portion is projected to bring in approximately $274,000 annually.

The 4.75 mills portion is projected to bring in approximately $2.6 million annually.

The loan amount for the proposed construction is the same as the failed levy attempt last year, the millage this year is lower than what appeared on the November 2019 ballot because property values increased.

Millage last year was 5.36 mills.

Garrison also noted Monday that the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission has now approved the building of a new singular elementary school on the current practice field behind the high school auditorium and gym and a separate, new, secondary school campus behind Washington State Community College, as adopted by the board of education last month.

Questions today derive from priorities and concerns voiced by the public via email and through a public survey the Times ran through Oct. 18.

The top three priorities noted by the percentage of participants identifying their primary concerns were in order: facility maintenance and upkeep costs (33.3 percent); safety of buildings and intrusion prevention (20.8 percent); and state funding mechanisms and the constitutionality of operational funding and district academic performance (12.5 percent).

To watch live, visit the Times’ Facebook page at 5 p.m.


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