SPRINGFIELD TWP. Teachers, parents, students and former students spoke to the Springfield Board of Education after saying they have heard that the district may close the Distance Learning Lab (DL) for the College Credit Plus program.

About 15 people spoke on behalf of the lab, touting the head start it gives students. Many pointed out what the DL has done for their children. Some said they did not like the idea of the young students driving to the local colleges especially in bad weather.

One parent, citing that her freshman child is in the program and another who plans on being in it next year after moving from Schrop Intermediate to the the junior high school, talked about how excited each child was for the program.

There are three ways a student can take college credits while in junior high or high school and the lab is by far the most popular option.

Another parent mentioned that a student brought home a booklet the day of the meeting that mentioned the DL program and that it was for junior and senior high students. She questioned why it would be in the materials if the district was planning on eliminating the program.

School officials, however, said at this time, there are no plans to discontinue the lab, but there are talks going on how to cut costs for the next school year. Treasurer Chris Adams said that the state is getting strict on approving five-year forecasts if they are not showing a good positive balance.

“Cuts will take place this year and a levy will be on the ballot in August,“ Adams said. ”We have been fortunate to go so long – 20 years – without new money. We will have to make significant cuts.”

Administration teams are working alongside board members to analyze where there can be cuts to tighten the budget.

During public input time, students and former students spoke to the board about how the distance learning lab has helped them; encouraged them to keep their grades up; and to graduate with not only college credits, but in many cases an associate degree.

Superintendent Chuck Sincere said he graduated with an associate degree and it gave him the encouragement to continue with his education.

Those who spoke said that Springfield Local Schools has worked hard to improve academically and improve its reputation. Taking away the lab would hurt the schools, the students and the students that come to Springfield from other districts due to the lab.

Teacher Michelle Hannah spoke to the board and said she heard officials were contemplating closing the lab because it was obsolete, and the district could make better use of the resources. She pointed out that 53 percent of the college plus credits for the students have been learned through the lab.

Kevin Hannah, a coach and educator at the junior senior high school, said some students have either stayed in the district, came back to the district or open enrolled in Springfield to participate in the learning lab.

Many also spoke about the classes online being confusing and saying it is difficult enough for an adult or college student, let alone a younger student. They pointed out that it can be difficult for a family to provide a car and insurance for a student to drive to Akron or Kent every day for college courses.

Karla Shackelford said her son went to Akron for the college program and she said to “never let your children do this.” She said the high school students were, many being 16 to 17 years old, were elbow to elbow with 20 year old’s and they are given a college ID just like the older students.

Board members and Sincere thanked the parents, students and former students for expressing their passion for the program and said the board will be discussing the input in executive session, but no action would be taken and cuts to the lab were in discussion.

During the meeting, the board approved a memorandum of understanding with Kent State University and Stark State College for the College Credit Plus program for the 2020-21 school year.

Other action:

• A memorandum of understanding with Springfield Township regarding provision and use of School Resource Officer (SRO) services was approved. Business Manager Dustin Boswell and Springfield Chief of Police Jack Simone introduced Cody Meade as the new elementary school resource officer. Meade’s salary will be paid for through a grant from the state for the next five years.

• A resolution opposing the Ohio Legislature’s recently made amendments which greatly increases the availability of vouchers for students to attend private/parochial schools at public tax expense was approved by the board members.

The resolution read “Springfield’s state funding will be unjustly decreased by the number of vouchers provided to such families and students who have not and will not attend public schools and others who transfer to private/parochial schools.”

It also stated that private/parochial schools accepting students with public tax vouchers would not be required to accept all students but would be permitted to retain their selective admission polices without enforcement of other laws applicable to public schools. The students of the private and parochial schools are not subject to the testing standards required of public school students so that the actual performance of the schools subsidized with public tax dollars will not be known, relative to equivalent public schools evaluation standards. The board stated in the resolution that it believes that the EdChoice voucher program, as it exists, presents serious constitutional issues regarding the separation of church and state and the funding of religious institutions with public tax dollars.

• Teacher Holly Reed and her 6th grade class demonstrated what they have learned in class through a new robotics program. The students explained and showed the board members on their Chromebooks how they work to program the robots. They will compete in a competition with other schools at Springfield Middle School. Teacher Rob Lane said some of his junior high students have been helping the class to learn about robotics.

• Boswell reported that the district received a school safety training grant from the Ohio Attorney General’s office. These funds will support SRO training as well as training opportunities for the staff.

• Boswell said the food service is performing better than last year but is still not breaking even.

“Our revenues are up from last year, but our labor costs increased more than revenue, with no increase in actual staffing numbers,” he said. “This month, a failed oven replacement cost us about $3,300.”

He also said the construction is progressing well on the transportation depot. Crews relocated the Spartan Trail to the north side of Kenny Ray Jr. Memorial Parkway and away from the construction site.

• The board approved the resignation of classified employee Jamie Sears effective Jan. 14. Sears will remain on the classified substitute list. Also approved was the reassignment of Amy Hurst as a two-hour cafeteria worker at Springfield High School and Junior High School. Athletic Supplemental Contracts for spring sports were approved. The employment of Jessyca Scarpitti as a two- hour educational assistant at Spring Hill Elementary was approved.

• Donations were accepted from Wonderful Giving (Fiji Water) in the name of Craig Devaney of $500.

• The board accepted the donation of approximately 100 coats and hats from an anonymous donor for students at Schrop Intermediate who do not have coats. If anyone has a child in need of a coat from Young and Spring Hill, they are advised to call office at Schrop.

• Sincere congratulated the girls bowling team on its third straight sectional championship and third place finish in the district tournament and moving on to the state tournament. 
The varsity bowling team consists of Tonelle Boykins, Lauryn Eldreth, Karlee Holmes, Evelyn Moneypenny, Kamryn Smith, Hanna Warnick and Mackenzie Weakland.

The next regular meeting will be held at 6 p.m. March 18 at Spring Hill Elementary School.