Three schools targeted for closure



News-Herald Staff Writer

HOPEDALE – In a surprise move, the Harrison Hills City School Board of Education chose to forego another levy attempt and instead close three elementary schools.

The change occurred during the Wednesday meeting at Harrison Hopedale Elementary School, where the agenda included further discussion on the placement of a 9.35-mill levy on the November ballot to generate funds and help pull the district out of debt for the short term. The district ended the year with a balance of roughly $559,000 and was looking at an estimated $1.4 million deficit in Fiscal Year 2011. Prior ideas to close Harrison Lakeland and Harrison Jewett Elementary Schools were shot down and the levy became a Plan B, although officials said it might keep the district in the black for about two years.

Instead, talks turned to rescind the levy alternative and immediately suspend classes at Lakeland, Jewett and Harrison Westgate Elementary.

“One of the things we need to discuss as a school board is we have a letter to present to the state on how to proceed with the deficit,” said Superintendent George Ash. “We have until Aug. 4 to look at the levy issue on the November ballot.”

The measure would generate about $2 million annually over a five-year period. Harrison Hills has operated on a total of 24.75 mills, with a total of 19.15 mills prior to 1976 and a 6.6-mill additional levy that passed in 1991. Further attempts for general fund levies and bond issues have failed at the polls but voters have supported permanent improvement levies to maintain the current buildings.

“I do not feel a levy at all would pass in this county at this time. I motion to rescind placement of the levy on the ballot,” said board member Bob Hugh.

He further motioned to suspend classes at the three elementary sites pursuant to the Ohio Revised Code and in light of the deficit and declining enrollment. Hugh recommended that Jewett Elementary students head to the Harrison Central Middle School in Scio, which would be known as Harrison Elementary School and handle grades Pre-K to sixth; students at Lakeland and Westgate would head to Harrison Hopedale Elementary, also for Pre-K to sixth grades. In turn, Harrison Central High School would incorporate grades 7-12 in a joint junior/senior high facility.

“I agree with Bob that with the climate in this county, a levy will not pass,” Board Vice President Crawshaw said. “We need to do something internally before we ask the voters. We need to take fiscal action before we tell the voters we’ve done all we can do.”

The final vote passed by a narrow margin, with Kenny, Crawshaw and Hugh in favor and Allen and Kinney Thompson opposing. Ash later said the latest closure plan should keep the district in the black for at least two years, but beyond that was unknown.

“We still have an enormous projected deficit at this time and are pleased the staff worked to contain healthcare costs,” he said, referring to the insurance committee’s ability to negotiate with the healthcare provider and lower costs from 18 to 5 percent, containing $350,000 in the process.

Another positive was the disbursement of more than $280,000 in back taxes paid by the former BayForm Company. Ash said that was a “one-time” shot in the arm; however, District Treasurer Roxane Harding said the closures should eliminate the Fy ’11 deficit.

Roxane Starkey, president of the Harrison Hills Teachers’ Association, said officials would talk about the big move, which could take place over the next two weeks. “Mr. Ash and I are going to meet to discuss the reorganization. The teachers will support the move, and we’ll get the job done and move about with business.”

Pictured are the Harrison County Community Improvement Corp. presenting Harrison Hills City Schools with a portion of the back taxes received from the former BayForm Company; starting left, Debbie Kenny, school board president; Superintendent George Ash; Dale Arbaugh, CIC president; Bob Hendricks, CIC vice president; and John Jones, CIC treasurer.


  1. Not unexpected news and even though the vote to deal with closure and consolidation was close and might somehow be contested; the loss of families
    with school age children, might at best, buy a few years reprieve.
    My memories of Jewett Elementary and High School are frozen in time; that time being 1956 when my family had to leave the area and move to Southeastern Ohio. I’ve often wondered what life would have been like if the family hadn’t made the move and I would have marched across the stage for the graduation exercises of the Class of 1962; something I witnessed from the audience during a surprise visit to what would have been my graduation ceremony.
    This will be a bitter blow to what is left of Jewett as a viable entity; recently I took a Google Map Street Tour of Jewett and like so many other small communities around Middle America (and elsewhere) that tour was depressing and nostalgic.

  2. They look too happy to have just decided to mis-placed so many students. I would like to know how many of them are taking pay cuts, driving farther to work, etc…

    It is not right that the community of Freeport & surrounding areas did not have a say in this.

  3. My feelings is that when it really comes time to close these 3 schools, that somehow they (school board) will see that Westgate will remain open. Leaving Freeport and Jewett schools only two that will close.

  4. Where are the kids going to play at in Scio? Scio ripped out it’s playground to build the gym/band room. And what happened to all the money the Jewett kids raised for new playground equipment?

  5. your relinement of school distrat with closing of lakeland ,is the dumbest think you have done to date,this school is the newest building along with westgate in the distrst,whay close newer once ,and leave old one open

  6. If people would have just passed the levy to build new schools, the district would not have been in this shape. The fact that the school board knows a levy won’t pass is a sign the community does not think education is a top priority. Very sad. Glad I moved away.

  7. Lisa

    02:23:59If people would have just passed the levy to build new schools, the district would not have been in this shape. The fact that the school board knows a levy won’t pass is a sign the community does not think education is a top priority. Very sad. Glad I moved away.

    Lisa, you are so wrong in even thinking the people does not rate an education as a top priority.
    As you said you are glad you moved away, so that is sayin you don’t really know all that has been going on.

  8. This school district is just sad sad sad. Ultimately there is no hope for the district but to dissolve it and let the surrounding school districts absorb the students. In all reality, they should dissolve the entire county. Do not re-elect these idiots that we call our school board. It’s time for some new people in there, believe me, they couldn’t do any worse.

  9. Finally someone with the courage to stand up to the teacher union! During the last strike, all we ever heard was how much the teachers cared about our children’s education. The reality of the situation was not once during any media interview did the union spokesperson discuss anything related to the quality of the education being provided to our children. It was all about money then, and it always will be. So what if you had to start sharing your fair share of healthcare costs! The rest of us have been doing it for years! In the end, the union got what they wanted, and here we are now… funny how the union didn’t make so much as a peep to the local media about having to cut so many jobs… its about time the union stop playing the blame game and accept some responsibility for the actions that led to this. Harrison county simply cant afford to match the salaries and benefits of other areas. The ever increasing loss of jobs and declining tax revenue will only continue. IThings are only going to get worse. The people of Harrison county have had ample opportunities to support it’s education programs, yet time and time again, they’ve voted it down. When the state takes over, we will have no choice.

  10. WHAT about the administration being held accountable. If you are feeling pressure, name those who apply it. The board is being controlled by 3 , 2 ladies and an led by the nose old man[sorry]to my elders. Good luck. By the way how many employee’s live in our county?
    Where does the Supt. and his assistant reside?
    If an attendence area has no building to attend, are they still required to pay taxes in that district?

  11. The school board is running the school district just like HARRISON COUNTY is being ran right , in the ground .All the leaders of each DEPT. wants to do is spend the tax payers money . Its about time the people in this county wakes up and quits re-electing these people for these offices before it’s to late. How do you think the elderly on a fixed income can pay all these taxes.

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