Loveland BOE Cancels Contract for Option to Purchase Grailville Property

By Chuck Gibson 

LOVELAND – A crowd estimated to be 200 strong packed the Loveland Intermediate School cafeteria Tuesday evening January 21, during the Loveland School Board of Education meeting. 

Loveland school teachers marched into the cafeteria in a solidarity show of support for teachers cut (Photo:Chuck Gibson)

Teachers and students came out Tuesday night to show, and voice, support for teachers cut due to the reduction in force (RIF) resulting from the November levy defeat. They waved signs and spoke in support of Physical Education teacher and coach Chris Redmond, and Digital Arts teacher Kacey Watkins, both of whom have already been notified their positions have been cut for next school year. 

Words of support from students, and other teachers were received with overwhelming applause and a standing ovation for each speaker. The message was clear. Redmond and Watkins are valued members of the “Tiger Family”; valued members who the Loveland Schools and community cannot afford to lose. 

The message the students, and teachers delivered was a clear call for passing of the upcoming March levy to avoid further loss of valued educators in Loveland Schools. 

Nine members of the public each had three minutes to address the Board of Education and crowd at large. Each lauded the accomplishments and positive impact of Redmond and Watkins had as teachers and mentors for the students. The speakers were not all in agreement. Some presented reasons for a solid yes on the upcoming March school levy. Others argued the vote should be no. 

Teachers and students held up signs in supprt of teachers Mr. Chris Redmond and Ms Kacey Watkins (Photo:Chuck Gibson)

Members of the Loveland Schools Board of Education during the business meeting Tuesday, January 21, 2020 (Photo:Chuck Gibson)

Following the intial 30 minute hearing of the public session, the Loveland Schools Board of Education turned their attention to matters of school business. Among those matters was a presentation updating the status of the “Jump Start” reading program for students pre-school and K-2nd grade. That was followed by committee reports and other school business issues. 

The biggest news of the BOE meeting broke later as the board cancelled the contract for the option to purchase Grailville property. 

Here is the Loveland Schools official news release with details on the Grailville contract cancellation: 

A crowd estimated near 200 was on hand for Loveland School Board meeting January 21, 2020 (Photo: Chuck Gibson)

At its January 21 business meeting, the Loveland City Schools Board of Education voted to cancel the contract with the Grail, an Ohio nonprofit, for the option to purchase 110 acres of Grailville – a property located on O’Bannonville Road east of downtown Loveland.

“With the overwhelming results of the November 2019 levy, the board has placed the facility master plan on hold until we can reengage the community in alternative solutions to our building issues,” said Dr. Kathryn Lorenz, board president. 

“We have listened to our community and heard that it is not ready to bear the investment in the facilities plan as presented, and therefore purchase of any land without a definitive approved building plan would dilute funds that will now be needed for additional years of maintenance to current facilities, and would be inadvisable in light of this changed financial need. For these reasons we don’t see the feasibility of moving forward with the purchase of land now.”

Long term affordability was a major consideration prior to the decision to either purchase or cancel the contract, stated Lorenz. Earnest money, appraised cost, the continued maintenance of old buildings, the potential unavailability of future land, the inflationary increase in any construction budget associated with an extended timeline of facilities projects, and the added cost of trailers as “swing space” during construction should the schools eventually be expanded on existing properties were all issues that were weighed.

“The board continues to do its due diligence,” said Lorenz, “and we will continue to look at every possibility and will work with the community on options to ensure the future of the school district.”

The board also approved resolutions related to the $2.7 million in expense reductions that are presented alongside the 6.95-mill operating levy request on the March 17 ballot. The reductions are being made regardless of the outcome of the election in order to curb expenses and maintain a minimum cash balance for the district going forward. In addition to eliminating expenditures in the five-year forecast related to the planned expansion of programs and services; reducing consultants, contracted services and department budgets; and increasing fees; the district is eliminating staff positions.

“In making these cuts, our highest priority is to protect student offerings and continue the efforts that have led to academic progress over the past several years,” said Superintendent Dr. Amy Crouse. “We have focused on reducing and eliminating non-employee costs, but because the largest portion of our budget goes toward paying salaries and benefits, we had to make decisions regarding the elimination of positions. Having to cut staff positions is the greatest loss to us at Loveland and the process is heart-breaking – no staff member is inconsequential and everyone plays an important part in the student experience here in the district.”

A combination of 13-14 teaching, non-teaching, and administrative positions, and two future forecasted teaching positions are being eliminated. The positions being eliminated are determined first and the Reduction in Force process is then conducted per Ohio Revised Code (ORC) and Master Agreement timelines for notice and board action. Employees are released at the end of the 2019-20 school year with consideration to certification, contract, and seniority.

“This is a lengthy process, bound by contract and the law, but the end result is that the person in the position being eliminated may not be the person impacted by the Reduction in Force,” said Dr. Crouse. “It is always our goal to communicate with each affected staff member early to allow them the most time and opportunity to search for a new job.”

The board’s next urgent priority is to identify the positions, programs, and services that are at risk if the March ballot issue fails. 

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