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Fort Frye BOE discusses long term facility plan

Photo by James Dobbs Superintendent Dr. Stephanie Starcher, left, discussed support staff substitutes at the Fort Frye Board of Education meeting. Also pictured is Stacy Bolden, board treasurer.

LOWER SALEM — The Fort Frye Local Schools Board of Education met Tuesday to discuss support staff substitutes and the long-term facility plan.

The board discussed four options for the long-term facility plan.

The first option was a new Pre-K through 12 campus in Beverly, which would close the rest of the schools in the district. The approximated cost is $58 million and would require a bond issue.

The second option was a renovated campus in Beverly. The approximated cost of adding on to the Beverly-Center Elementary School is $17 million, while the cost of adding on to Fort Frye High/Middle School is approximated at $35 million.

Superintendent Dr. Stephanie Starcher explained the second plan would consist of adding on to the elementary school in order to make room for all Pre-K through fifth grade students, and keeping the sixth through 12th building for the rest of the students.

She said the other option in this plan is to add on to the high school to make room for all students.

The third option is to convert the Lowell Elementary site to house the Lowell and Salem-Liberty Elementary students. Beverly-Center Elementary School and Fort Frye High/Middle Schools would remain in place. This plan is approximated at $100,000, and would not require a bond issue.

The fourth option is to keep the configuration as is, and would also not require a bond issue.

Board President Kevin Worthington said his concern is making decisions without voter approval. He said options two and three do not require a bond issue, but do include closing schools within the community.

“I fear that we have 80 percent of our population that has no clue anything’s going on,” said Worthington.

Board Vice-President Lloyd Booth suggested surveying the district to spread the word and receive community input.

“What we’re going to do is going to impact our area for the next many decades, so when we make a decision let’s make the right one …” said Booth.

Starcher urged the board to move forward on the plan. She said the plan started in 2018 by hiring an architect, with the first community group meeting in February 2019. She said the board has had legitimate reasons to pause the planning, but explained that it is hard to run a district without a future in sight.

“It is hard to run a district when we do not know where we are headed. I am concerned that we will misspend money or make decisions that won’t fit into whatever facility plan that you guys decide,” she said. “We can make any facility plan work in this district, you have confident teachers, janitors, maintenance, bus drivers …”

The board did not specify a timeline on this project at the time of reporting.

No decisions were made, but the board will discuss putting out a survey based on the long-term facility plan at January’s board of education meeting.

The board also discussed support staff substitutes. Booth said he was concerned with the emergency legislation that permits boards of education in Ohio to relax the requirements for employing substitute teachers. Booth wanted to make sure the district was hiring the most qualified candidates at the particular time of hiring, so the students get the best education possible, and also questioned the background check process during the hiring stage.

Starcher said it is a dilemma, because there is a national and state teacher shortage, and an even bigger substitute shortage. She said she hasn’t received any complaints about the substitutes hired because of the legislation, but has heard several comments from teachers who have had to give up their planning period, or who are burnt out or exhausted, because they didn’t have access to a substitute teacher.

“And I think the idea of lowering the requirements is not necessarily ideal, but at this point it probably is necessary,” said Andy Sleek, Fort Frye teachers association president.

Sleek reassured Booth that during long-term substitute situations, the administration does its best to find the most qualified people.

James Dobbs can be reached at jdobbs@newsandsentinel.com

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