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Strong effort bolsters Columbiana’s school year

COLUMBIANA — When the administrative staff was making decisions on what the 2020 school year would look like, there were a lot of uncertainties. In fact, there still is. However, at the forefront of every decision made was the main goal of providing an ideal option for each individual student.

Superintendent Don Mook discussed how enrollment is affecting finances at Tuesday’s school board meeting, and he believes that if the effort in planning for the school year wasn’t as strong, they could’ve lost some students from the district.

The district’s total enrollment is 1,041 students, with 774 students attending school in person and 267 students opting to learn remotely. Approximately 74 percent of the students are attending in person.

“I can’t tell you how important it is for us to be able to provide education both in person to the vast majority of our kids and also to the 267 kids remotely,” Mook said. “Those 267 kids represent a significant amount of revenue for us. If we didn’t do right by the entire population, we could lose a significant number of students.”

In terms of enrollment, Mook has continued to support open enrollment and share what it provides for the district. He said without open enrollment, the district would have just 789 students in the district. Open enrollment provides the district with $1,517,040.

“Open enrollment keeps programs in the district, keeps staffing where we are and provides opportunities to our current students that we might not have if we couldn’t offer a wider staff,” Mook said.

“For us, open enrollment is necessary so long as open enrollment exists, and other students can be taken from our district.”

From a revenue standpoint Mook and treasurer Kathy Davies shared their concern for the district moving forward. There are four school income tax payments throughout the year, and the first one is down 23 percent or $187,451. Mook said that since there are four payments, it could get better or worse.

Real estate in Columbiana County is another big hit to the district, as it is down 35 percent or $341,500. Mook said that the community reinvestment act (CRA) isn’t helping the district in terms of gaining any positive revenues from home building.

“We may see some income tax, but even income tax is down,” Mook said. “Even all of those homes being built, the income tax isn’t making up those revenues for us. I’m very concerned with where we’re headed.”

While Mook said he hates to talk about levies, if the current revenue trends continue, they will be forced to put one on the ballot. Levies have not been very successful in the district according to Mook.

“If people know we’re doing our very best, they may be willing to support us,” Mook said. “In gathering that support, it can’t be more of a critical time for us than what we’re doing right now during a pandemic. People see what we’re doing, and they’ll realize what kind of educational program we have here.”

The district is still trying to avoid the path of a levy, but if they need to explore that option, Mook believes the staff has done a good job in showing the community what they can provide for students.

The school board will meet against at 6 p.m. Oct. 27.

slendak@mojonews.com

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