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Oak Hill discusses safety and solar updates

BY HEATHER COX - hcox@chronicle-tribune.com

After 24 schools across the United States saw shootings in 2018, school safety is at the forefront of local discussion

The Oak Hill United School Corporation board of trustees heard from Sweetser Elementary School Principal, Anne Liddick, who is also a corporation school safety specialist, on safety precautions the school currently has in place, as well as precautions they’re looking to implement in the future.

Liddick attended three days of training this school year to receive her school safety certification through the Department of Education and brought some of the information she heard to the board for updates and consideration.

She started her presentation off by saying although Oak Hill is a family-centered community, the world outside that community is not always safe, so they have to take precautions and update the way they do things.

The DOE also did an audit on the schools this year, she said. The school corporation passed with flying colors, she noted.

Liddick also told the board that Alex Kenworthy from the Marion Police Department visited at the beginning of the semester to do Alert Lockdown Inform Counter and Evacuate (ALICE) training for the teachers, which wasn’t new for them, but it went along with Oak Hill’s own crisis response guide.

In addition to training teachers, she said they have to have those conversations with the students too, which can get especially tricky with younger students. She explained that she has found a book titled “I’m not scared because I’m prepared,” which explains the ALICE ideas in a way that is geared toward young students.

Liddick also reviewed various ideas and items they are considering, such as resources from the “I Love You Guys” foundation, using apps to get information out in case of emergency and the internet is down, as well as a new visitor check-in program.

She said though visitors are required to pass a background check at the beginning of the year, things can change throughout the year. Since sex offender directories and criminal background directories are updated daily, a new system could include scanning an ID to quickly check someone’s criminal history before allowing them access to the school.

Liddick said they are also reviewing the cost of upgrading the front windows with safety film to make them shatter-proof and moving the building access completely outside the building since some buildings allow visitors to enter through one set of doors before entering the rest of the building.

The board also heard from Ryan Stout, a solar developer with Performance Services on an update on the solar panels the school corporation had installed by spring of 2018.

Stout reminded the board that in the spring of 2018, 3,000 fluorescent tube fixtures were converted to LED and two large-scale systems were put in place, one for the high school and a larger one for the junior high school.

Though 2018 wasn’t a good year for solar, Stout said they are still happy with the results. He said they came in at 97 percent of what was projected, meaning they were slightly more than $6,600 short of the original projection, even with only 59 clear days in 2018 when the average is usually 88.

“(The number) was 67 percent under (the average) … and we still produced 97 percent, so that was exciting for us,” he said.

Stout said they will continue monitoring everything monthly and will return back in one year to give 2019 results.

Superintendent Joel Martin also noted that he and Oak Hill’s Business Manager, Deb Smith, are continuing to be in communication with the City of Marion regarding the potential expansion of a tax increment financing (TIF) district for Central Indiana Ethanol.

He said they have consulted with municipal advisor Umbaugh & Associates and a legal advisor to try to stay informed, to ask the right questions, to ensure that paperwork is done correctly and to ensure Oak Hill is getting what is theirs from tax dollars off land in the school district.

“We’re trying to be good, responsible school administrators and make sure we are treated the right way, and that is in no way to imply that we haven’t been up to this point, just something to keep track of,” he said.

In other news, the board is continuing a discussion on the possibility of changing expectations for homeschool students who are also enrolled in one class period or more at Oak Hill. Martin said they are still looking at some data and still need to have more conversations about it, but there is a possibility of requiring homeschooled students enroll in more than one class period.

Currently, Martin said the schools have 12 students of that homeschool status, 10 of which participate in school athletics, five that attend for more than one period already and two which are music class participants.

The one thing he said seems to be a broad consensus thus far is grandfathering current students to the one period a day enrollment expectation. He said they are not rushed or pushed for time to make a decision, but it could also be a financial boost to the corporation.

The next Oak Hill board meeting is scheduled for April 8 at 6:30 p.m.