With a 3-2 vote, the Tiffin City Schools Board of Education voted to reopen the former Lincoln Elementary Building to serve as the Tiffin Learning Center for the 2015-16 school year Tuesday evening during a special meeting.
The board voted to not reopen the building for the 2014-15 school year due to lack of solid dollar figures. The vote against opening in the fall was 3-2.
Board member Chris Widman, who voted against both decisions, said there is a projected substantial savings, but he was not comfortable with the budget presented.
"We should first do our due diligence to gather all the facts and then proceed," Widman said.
Family Learning Center preschool teacher Jodi Roszman read a letter from a parent stating, "... It is up to the parents to choose a school for their children. ... Remember, your duty as board members is to place the education of the children as the number one priority."
Students are to attend the facility based on their Independent Education Plan.
Community member James Fruth explained his concern with the projected cost savings and the hiring of entry level teachers.
"There is no substitute for quality," he said.
The district presented the idea of reopening the building in February. The district had contracted services out to the Family Learning Center for 20 years. The FLC, started in 1997, is part of North Central Ohio Educational Service Center. The district presented a projected cost savings of close to $300,000.
The district is spending $786,013 on the Family Learning Center contract this year, according to numbers presented by the district during the last board meeting.
"I am glad that the decision went as it did. I believe how the matter was handled has been poor," Jim Lahoski, superintendent and CEO of the NCOESC, said. "I am proud of the the staff and teachers at the FLC and to have the opportunity to work with them."
The district administration presented the board and the community with the planned programming and projected costs based on the current student population of the preschool program.
The presentation included a student analysis based on the current FLC population of 65 students, Scott Urban, director of instruction and personnel, said.
Staffing for the school would consist of a supervisor, a lead teacher, a speech and language pathologist, five classroom teachers, five classroom aides, a custodian, a part-time nurse, a secretary, a psychologist and an itinerant teacher.
One question raised at the last regular board meeting was the cost of equipment. The presentation gave an estimated cost of $30,505. Equipment needs would be based on student IEPs, TCS Special Education Supervisor Jeremy Koppus said.
Physical therapy services are estimated to cost $22,562 and occupational therapy services to cost $3,786.
Koppus said Superintendent of the Seneca County School of Opportunity Lewis Hurst has offered to lend equipment until further purchases could be made to help with special needs students.
First-year costs are estimated at $210,002, including equipment, furnishings, technology, instructional components, professional development, progress monitoring, assessments, building inspection, facility, phone system and unemployment.
TCS Treasurer Sharon Perry projected a cumulative savings after five years of $1,043,508.
The building was inspected by Richland County Building Codes and Inspections March 7. The inspection found the following actions that must be performed:
A smoke detector installed above the fire alarm panel.
Handicapped parking sign installed.
High-jump pits removed.
Verify future room usage.
Removal of specified playground equipment.
Air conditioning installed based on student IEPS.
Sprinkler system installed.
Check door security systems.
Post the district's food service license.
Scott Daniel, TCS director of operations, is to have a fire inspection performed and submit findings to Richland County Building Codes and Inspections.
Board member Jeff Hoyda said the board should wait to decide on opening the building when all the facts are presented. With the building inspection, the district would need a certificate designed for students with disabilities.
Board member Randy Schwartz said, "The board did a good job putting together the presentation and I am comfortable with the represented savings. The FLC has done a tremendous job. I just felt that there was not enough time to proceed in the fall."
Schwartz voted for the opening of the building in 2015-16.
"I don't think we need to stop preparing. We need to be ready for all children and prepare for the necessary standards," Schwartz said.
The next regular meeting is at 7 p.m. March 25 at the Tiffin Middle School cafetorium.