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School board votes to close doors on 95-year-old building

By Carol McIntire

Sherrodsville School closing
The Conotton Valley Union Local Board of Education voted unanimously Monday evening to close the doors on Sherrodsville Elementary (shown above), now known as Conotton Valley Primary School within the school district. The building was built in 1918.

When the current school year closes in May 2013, so will the doors of Sherrodsville elementary.

The Conotton Valley Union Local Board of Education voted 5-0 Monday evening to close the 95-year-old school after hearing from about 15 community members and parents and meeting in executive session for nearly one and one-half hours.

Superintendent Adam Pittis  said he believes closing Sherrodsville School (now known as Conotton Valley Primary School) was the best option for the district to move forward for the next couple years.

“We were the only school district in Ohio with an enrollment of less than 1,000 students to operate three buildings this year,” he said. “Our district has already made $2 million in cuts in the five year forecast and if we did nothing, we would have been over $400,000 in the red.”

He said the cost of utilities, maintenance and in wages and benefits will help the district immensely. The average cost per year over the last three years for gas (propane) to heat the building is $16,000; electric is about $9,000; sewer (the building has its own water well), $4,000 and maintenance and upkeep, about $15,000.

“We know the true savings will be in wages and benefits,” he said adding the district won’t know until the March meeting which positions will be abolished or shifted around to calculate the total savings. He said contracts will be negotiated with both unions in the district this year and he expects them to make cuts, primarily in the area of healthcare. “We have to offset the projected deficit; we have no choice,” he noted. “Both unions are aware of it.”

The 126 students in preschool through fourth grade will be transferred to Bowerston Elementary, including 21 students enrolled in preschool. “We have to wait and see what the state does with funding for preschool programs under Governo’rs Kasich’s new plan to know exactly what is going to happen with that program, but for now, we plan to move sixth grade and possibly fifth grade to the high school.

 “If there is enough room at Bowerston, fifth grade students will remain there.”

He said the move to close Sherrodsville is the first phase of the school board’s   multi-phase plan to move all Conotton Valley students into one campus.

“We understand we have older buildings and spending future permanent improvement funds on them wouldn’t be wise,” Pittis commented. “Our goal, which could become a reality as early as the 2014-15 school year is to close Bowerston and build an elementary building on the campus where the high school is located.

Pittis said the district doesn’t plan to use the state’s school facilities improvement program to reach its goal.

“We have a small permanent improvement levy in place and if we asked the voters for a small addition to it, we could build an eight to 10 classroom elementary school at the site,” he said. “We also plan to pursue money in the governor’s budget for innovate and new school projects, if the budget is approved.

Pittis feels the move to one campus would improve the educational experience of students.

“In my opinion, if everyone was at the same campus, it would shorten the travel time of teachers and they could use it to teach new programs to students,” he said.

He also noted one advantage of being a small district and having students in one location is that teachers have the ability to give students individualized attention.

“If we have second grade students who are ready for third grade reading under the new Third Grade Reading Guarantee, we can move them up and give more attention to the students who need help,” he said.

Conotton Valley has not received any new operating money since 1996. Voters approved a 7.3 mill levy at that time which has continued to be renewed. However, voters have turned down every new levy the district has put on the ballot.

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