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Marietta City Schools’ officials speak in virtual Q&A

Less than a week until polls close in Marietta and undecided voters on the Marietta City Schools bond issue have the opportunity to listen and learn more before casting their votes, thanks to the combined efforts of the district and the Times.

On Tuesday, the Times hosted a live-streamed town hall on its social media, with four of the five school board members and three administration members answering the public’s questions, as represented by the Times.

By press time Tuesday, that broadcast had been viewed more than 600 times, walking through facility planning timelines, consolidation questions, safety in the time of active shooters and coronavirus, curriculum and efficiency constraints and the myriad priorities voters shared with the Times as the primary drivers of their vote for or against the bond issue on the ballot through 7:30 p.m. Nov. 3.

That live stream and clips specific to topic may be accessed for further review on the Times’ Facebook page and within this article here.

Facility planning timeline

Marietta City Schools Board of Education member Russ Garrison explained that questions of itemized budgeting put the cart before the horse right now and that first, steps outlined by the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission must be completed before a full design would be finalized.

He said the development of a master plan, approval of that plan and authorization by the state controlling board for initial funding has now been completed twice, the first time for the failed bond issue last fall, and repeated with modification and approval this month.

Now the district is at step four, authorizing the local share of funding through the bond levy. If the issue passes next week, steps five through 14 are then sequenced as follows:

5) Initiation of the process to issue bonds and obtain local share of funds.

6) Complete project agreement with OFCC.

7) Issue a Request for Proposals for architects.

8) Select architect.

9) Issue a Request for Proposals for a construction manager-at-risk.

10) Select a construction manager-at-risk.

11) Complete design – All phases with sub-contracts by architect for specialty areas (environmental, traffic, etc).

12) Select contractors for construction.

13) Construction phase.

14) Project completion.

Garrison explained that this process is also the schedule Warren Local Schools was required to follow as it now continues in the construction phase of its new schools.

Consolidation

Whether or not the bond issue passes, the district is closing two elementary schools at the close of the 2020-21 school year.

This not only centralizes staffing resources, Superintendent Will Hampton explained, but also addresses accessibility compliance issues long required to be met, according to Facilities and Transportation Manager Darrell Prim.

Harmar Elementary and Putnam Elementary are scheduled to close, consolidating those two school populations into Phillips and Washington schools.

Safety

Prim and Hampton discussed limited resources and staff to clean the district’s six existing academic buildings this year while also addressing aged plumbing and consistent breakage of other physical assets. These answers were in response to public concerns about facility cleaning due to coronavirus.

But Hampton and Board Member Stacey Hall also pointed to safety as a founding impetus for long-range facility planning three years ago, when she, Board President Doug Mallett and Board Member Mark Duckworth joined the board.

“There were several school shootings, there were intruders, there were things nationally going on and that was the main concern,” she noted, wanting more efficiency in addressing physical safety and incident prevention.

Hall noted that guidance from local first responders was a need for easier access to facilities in the case of an emergency.

Both said the planned two-building bond issue addresses those safety concerns with both physical lines of defense and expedited access to first responders.

Other topics

The board members and district staff present also dove into curriculum benefits Tuesday, including maximizing use of technology and combining arts and science education.

They discussed property valuation and how it impacts the district’s share of state aid for operations, they talked about underprivileged access to career and post-secondary education without the financial barrier of missing personal transportation.

And before the two-hour session concluded, each member still present and all three administrators shared their hopes and plea to voters headed into next week’s final tally.

Prim asked that voters not only think about themselves but also future generations.

“Vote your conscience, think of our future, of our students’ future and what you would like to see for your grandchildren or your great-grandchildren,” said Prim. “I’m at that point right now, I do have a great-grandchild … I would like to see nice, safe, facilities for those kids coming up.”

See further issues of the Times this week for more looks into those discussions.

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