SPRINGFIELD TWP. After hearing from supporters and detractors of Towpath Trail High School, a dropout recovery charter school, the Springfield Township Board of Trustees voted in favor of granting zoning text amendment changes that clears the way for the school to proceed with its plans to open a township location.
During a June 23 special meeting that was a continuation from a June 16 meeting on the Towpath Trail debate, trustee Dean Young said Towpath officials are investing $700,000 to $800,000 into the facility and that school presents a viable use for the property at 1016 Canton Road. He added that he doesn't believe Towpath Trail would compete with Springfield High School.
The zoning text change contained a condition that educational facilities shall not be located within 1,500 feet of a parcel where liquor is sold and consumed on the premises, such as a bar or tavern.
All three trustees voted for the text amendment, but Joe DiLauro said he was not happy about the school, despite his yes vote.
Prior to the vote, people on both sides of the issue presented their cases for and against allowing the school to open in Springfield.
Stephen Dyer, a Green city councilman and the education policy fellow at Innovation Ohio, expressed his concern as a resident, taxpayer and father about the impact that Towpath Trial High School would have on Springfield and surrounding areas.
Among the issues was how much money per student Towpath Trail would take away from Springfield Local Schools if a Springfield student attended the charter school. The Springfield Board of Education previously presented a resolution to the Board of Trustees saying it would cost the district $9,771 per student.
Towpath Trail officials, however, say they would only receive a state opportunity grand of $5,800 per student.
Dyer, however, countered that Towpath Trail also would receive other funding sources that are taken from district monies, leading to the $9,771 figure the Springfield Board of Education presented.
Using an example that if the state deems the cost of educating a student is $10,000, Dyer said the state decides how much each district can raise locally and then the state picks up the rest. For example, he said each student would get $5,000 in state funding and $5,000 in local funding. The problem being, according to Dyer, is if that student decides to go to Towpath - or another charter school - the state deems the student needs to be fully funded, so the state money of $5,000 follows the student as well as another $5,000 that would have funded another student in the local district.
Essentially, Dyer said, the local district loses the full amount from its revenue.
Towpath Trail board member Kathleen Brand said that they are planning a regional pull for this school, and added since it's a dropout recovery school, the majority of students are likely not enrolled in any public school district.
"We are not taking children out of the normal high school," she said. "Some might transfer because it's a better option. I believe the children in this area deserve a choice in the type of education they can get and when they want to go back to school and when they want to graduate."
Brand pointed out that the school is adding a "very serious" vocational component, which is a new endeavor for the school.
"One of the problems our board has had with the dropout recovery school is insuring that these kids can get a job afterwards and support themselves," Brand said. "We do believe that we can make an impact on the community," Brand said.
She added that Towpath officials believe Springfield Township is the best location for the venture and the school will open, whether it is the Canton Road location or another nearby. Brand said demographics show there are many unemployed and underemployed people in the area.
"I would like to have some, actually quality, education ... for the young people of this area," she said.
Towpath Curriculum Instructor Karen Wachter addressed the issue of the school, which has a location at 275 W. Market St. in Akron, not meeting its four-year graduation rate on the state report card. She said it is a difficult mark to meet for dropout prevention schools mainly because they don't enroll students until they are 16, and the majority had already fallen behind at a traditional school.
In other action, the board:
n Accepted the resignation of Reserve Officer Carl Blasdel as of April 26.
n Went into Executive Session to review a Fact Finders Recommendation involving negotiations with the Fraternal Order of Police. Upon returning, the board rejected the Fact Finders Report.
The next regular trustees meeting will be at 6 p.m., July 14 at Town Hall located at 2459 Canfield Road.