Tight budgets are affecting all of us, whether it is on a personal level or community-wide. Our local public school system is not exempt from having to make hard decisions based upon finances. Consequently, the voters are being asked to consider a levy on the March ballot.
Regardless of how the voters weigh in on the upcoming levy, the reality is that major changes are going to be made that will affect many of us - including the reorganization and consolidation of the district's elementary schools. We believe the school board (and those advising them) are doing everything in their power to address every facet of these changes.
But, no matter whether the levy passes or fails, some of the services previously offered no longer will exist or will change greatly in scope and cannot be restored without privately funded effort.
Busing is one service that will be greatly curtailed. A larger number of families will need to make adjustments in their routines this next school year to ensure the safety of their children as they travel back and forth to the classroom each day.
Several months ago, members of the Community Task Force (formerly the Mayor's Task Force for Community Assistance) began discussing this issue and working privately to explore options for parents who face the challenges of getting their elementary students safely to school (or multiple schools) and back home in the afternoon while, at the same time, trying to maintain their own work schedules.
We recognize there are other facilities in our community that offer excellent child care and supervision services. Among those agencies now offering care are Tiffin-Seneca Child Care, YMCA, First Lutheran Church, Angel Academy and Kidz City. We have met with several of these child care directors and have discussed this issue with them. However, we feel the need will be such that more than a few facilities will be needed to take care of the number of children impacted, and so we should not adversely influence their worthwhile efforts.
Therefore, we already have entered into discussions with Tiffin City Schools Board of Education and other entities about the possibility of leasing Lincoln Elementary School as an assembly point for students in kindergarten through fifth grade. Parents could drop their children off on their way to work in the morning and pick them up at the end of the work day.
If this project is to come to fruition, there are many areas we need to explore. These are among the major considerations:
Hiring a professional supervisor for the facility as well as providing for paid staff.
Providing tutoring and homework assistance in the afternoon and making space available for other after-school activities (i.e., Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, weekday religious education, etc.)
Creating a safe and supervised environment for children on two-hour delay days, which will allow parents to maintain their work schedule.
In the eventuality of snow days, providing full-day supervision for the children of parents who perform essential services in the work force.
We stress we now are studying the feasibility of this project. Many considerations will need to be made before we can begin to move forward, and we are fully aware there is great possibility this might be something well beyond our reach.
As we are developing our business plan, funding is obviously of prime importance. Operating dollars will come from per-student fees, charitable contributions and grants. We emphasize that, although the public school administration is working quite closely with us, no school tax dollars will be used to fund this project. The school system will be compensated dollar-for-dollar for everything it might provide for us, including the building usage and the cost of busing.
We hope this idea will be an opportunity for the community to work together to solve a difficult situation and make it a win-win for all involved.
We will be announcing public meetings in the very near future to more fully explain our intentions and (more importantly) to gather community input and suggestions. Again, there are no guarantees that we can successfully bring things together. But, we certainly believe this matter is of such importance that will we give it our best effort.