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Southwest Licking School District giving tours of schools to convince voters to pass bond

Southwest Licking Schools is giving tours of their district buildings as they work to pass a new bond issue in May to build new facilities (WSYX/WTTE)

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Southwest Licking School District giving tours of schools to convince voters to pass bond

Southwest Licking Schools opened their doors to the public for special tours, in an effort to show voters why they say they need funding for new schools.

District officials pointed out leaking ceilings and crowded classrooms.

"You are going to get to see all of it, the good, the bad and the ugly," said Ben Richardson with the district.

The school district is trying to pass a new bond issue after a similar request failed last fall. So this time, they're showing voters the issues in person.

"A lot of the community will say we can just put more people in a classroom," says Board of Education President Deb Moore, "Is that the way we want to educate our kids? Do we want to shove more people in a classroom? And even if we do do that, that doesn't address our plumbing issues, that doesn't address the lack of bathrooms."

The Ohio School Facilities Commission says capacity at Southwest Licking's current schools should be 3,000 students. There are currently 4,200 students in the district, and is still growing.

"Our kids can barely get through the hallways," says Moore.

The plan is to build a new high school, a new 4th and 5th grade building, and to renovate all the elementary schools.

If the bond passes, the community would pay $78 million, the state would kick in $52 million.

The board president said they risk losing that money from the state if they don't pass the bond now.

"Whether we have money for you in the future, there is no guarantee," she says.

But it is an argument, and price tag, that has one parent on the tour unconvinced.

"It is going to be your children paying for this and are they going to be able to afford to rent and buy homes in this area if this doesn't stop?" says Jim Helfrich, who has lived in the area for around 20 years.

He believes an entirely new elementary building is unnecessary, and believes the middle school should be renovated instead. The district said their plan is more cost effective compared to renovating the middle school.

If you own a $150,000 home in the area, you will pay around $350 dollars more a year for the length of the 37-year bond.

It is a cost a school alum who took the tour is willing to pay.

"Some of the stuff looked the same as when I went out here in the '50s and '60s and '70s, the same," said Linda Goldstein, who graduated in 1971 and used to work for the district.

Others think overcrowding just can't be ignored.

"One of the things that came to mind was the scene from Lion King where the wildebeest are running through the canyon, and if you look up that hallway, that is what it looks like, there's a lot of them.", said parent and elementary school PTO co-President Kristen Ridings.

The district is holding a special meeting at to work on the levy where the public is invited. It'll be Thursday 6 p.m. on Thursday at the district gymnasium in Pataskala.

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