OBERLIN — Oberlin Schools’ finances, the district’s report card and a plan to move forward with the consolidation of school buildings were discussed Tuesday during a State of the School address.
The address, sponsored by the League of Women Voters, was at the Oberlin Public Library. Superintendent John Schroth answered questions from the public and discussed where the district is headed in the next three years.
The district’s revenue increased after the passage of a 5-mill operating levy in 2011, and it is projected to have modest increases in the next few years. Schroth said spending is expected to increase because of higher labor costs and health care costs, but the district is expected to have a positive cash balance for at least the next three years until 2016, when there is a projected deficit.
The district’s revenue can increase based upon student population, open enrollment and increases in income taxes.
Schroth said more students have applied for open enrollment this year, which may account for more money for the district. The district accepted around 90 applications, and to date, 79 students have chosen to attend Oberlin Schools next year.
The number of students who have been accepted via open enrollment has steadily increased since 2009, when 49 students were accepted.
“There have been times in the past when we’ve had to turn students away because we just haven’t had seats for them, and we have had some large classes this year … We’re not going to accept students through open enrollment and have to hire personnel to teach them,” he said. “But it’s a way we can help fill vacant seats and bring in some extra revenue for the district at the same time.”
The district has performed well on this year’s state report card, despite a new system that is being touted as more transparent to hold schools accountable for their failings.
The district met 22 out of 26 indicators — up from 19 last year. The district received three As, four Bs, one C and one D on its report card.
The school received Bs in achievement, with an 81.1 percent performance index and 83.3 percent of indicators met. The grade was given after an examination of how many students passed the state test and how well they did on that test.
The district also received Bs for its graduation rate, with 90.8 percent of students graduating in four years and 90.7 percent graduating in five years.
Overall, the district received an A for how much the student body — grades four through eight — learned in the year in math and reading. The district received an A when examining gifted students and for students deemed the lowest 20 percent achievers.
The district received a C for students with disabilities, and while Schroth said there is room for improvement there, he said it doesn’t mean the district is failing.
“As a parent, a C is not something you’re really excited about seeing on a report card when it comes home, but from the state’s standpoint, a C means that you’re doing what is expected,” he said.
Schroth said the district is working to improve its rating on gap closing. Gap closing measures how well all students are doing in the district in reading, math and graduation. It examines Hispanic, African American, multiracial, Caucasian, economically disadvantaged students and students with disabilities.
The district received a D, meeting only 69.7 percent of annual measurable objectives.
“We have a lot of work to do as far as our students with disabilities are concerned to get them up to where the state expects them to be,” he said.
Schroth said because of the age of the current school buildings — the oldest was built in 1923 and the newest were built in the 1960s — the district saw a need to update its facilities.
In 2007, the district met with the Ohio School Facilities Commission, who completed a comprehensive review of the district’s buildings. In 2010, the district submitted a request for proposals for architectural firms, and last year, it met with approximately 20 people from the community who offered input on how the school district should proceed with the project.
The committee considered numerous proposals, including renovating the existing buildings, but determined that a consolidated pre-K-12 school building would be the most feasible.
Schroth said a consolidated building would be the least expensive and most operationally efficient, most energy efficient, have the least amount of interruption to the educational process during the construction phase and be the best solution for architecture to support the curriculum.
Plans are still under way for consolidation, including potentially purchasing land from Oberlin College at a cost of $50,000. The college is holding the land for Oberlin Schools at a cost of $1 until the district raises the funds needed for the project.
Next week, architects will meet with teachers, staff and other stakeholders to develop specifications for the project. Schroth said if the money for the project is raised from a levy, which likely will be placed on the ballot in November 2014, and from state funding, the entire project should be completed by fall 2018.
Schroth was questioned by some audience members, who asked if a new school building was necessary. Schroth said the building could attract teachers to the area and would improve the educational process.