Columbus School District moves along in possible referendum process
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Columbus School District moves along in possible referendum process

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After getting a clear sign that there is at least interest in pursuing a facilities improvement referendum, the Columbus School District is preparing for what’s next.

At the Nov. 11 Columbus School Board meeting at the high school, Superintendent Annette Deuman said the Community Facilities Advisory Committee will meet again Nov. 18 to discuss results of a recent resident survey. Based on survey results, more than 81% believe Columbus should pursue referendum funding to renovate and expand its facilities. While it yielded only 827 responses, the district feels good about the response rate and interest in the community funding building improvements.

“I thought the response rate was fantastic,” said Board President Cindy Damm. “I’m very excited about how many people took the time to do that survey. It wasn’t just a pull it out, check two boxes and move on (survey), you needed to commit a solid 15-30 minutes of time. I’m excited the community stepped up to do that. That’s just a great response rate across all of our voter groups.”

Deuman said the district has developed a timeline to keep moving forward with the facilities improvement plan.

“At the Nov. 18 meeting, the committee will review survey results, they will affirm some prioritization of projects and really review and discuss the initial scope of potential projects,” Deuman said.

The committee plans to meet again Nov. 25 at the high school. Deuman said the group will review the updated scope of projects and discuss a board presentation scheduled for Dec. 9.

“They will make a recommendation to the board that night,” Deuman said. “It’s a pretty fast timeline but they really feel they can be prepared to make that presentation to the board.”

Board Member Bill Braun questioned if the board approves going to a referendum, if the district has enough time to place it on the spring election ballot. Braun said districts must provide 75 days’ notice to local clerks to have a referendum on the ballot. Deuman said Jan. 28 is the deadline to submit referendum questions.

Alice Schmidt estate closing

Deuman said sale of the late Alice Schmidt’s home is slated to close next week. Before her death in 2018, Schmidt requested her home and many of her possessions be sold with the money going back to Columbus education programs.

The district held an auction in October and the house sold for more than $80,000. Many of Schmidt’s personal items and rare collections were also auctioned off. The board approved a resolution for the sale closing at Monday’s meeting.

“This was just a great bequest from Alice,” Deuman said. “Once all is said and done, the Alice Schmidt fund through the school district endowment will be roughly $160,000 for professional development for Columbus staff members.”

New hires

The board approved two non-certified staff hires, Corissa Elder at the intermediate school and Deanna Herrick at the middle school. Both work as education support personnel.

In other updates, several staff members will receive special pins to honor at least 15 years of service with the district. Deuman said staffers with at least five years of service receive a “C” in a glass frame and a pin for every five years after that. Staffers will receive the honors next week as part of American Education Week.

Languages and tech ed

Becky Schmidt, director of curriculum and instruction, provided an update on how the district monitors student progress in world languages and career technical education.

Schmidt said Columbus offers two sections of Spanish for students, beginning in sixth grade. Spanish, however, is the only world language taught at the district. Board member Julia Hoffman asked if the district plans to add more language courses at the middle school level.

Schmidt said the district has to support a healthy Spanish program and it would prove difficult adding another language. She said there could also be challenges in sustaining student interest in another offering.

Looking at career technical education, Schmidt said student interest remains high.

“We have a fairly robust number of offerings for a school our size,” she said.

While Columbus works on developing more STEAM opportunities for students, Schmidt said learning “soft skills” is also a priority. Soft skills are several traits employers look for in quality employees.

Follow Kevin Damask on Twitter @kdamask or contact him at 608-963-7323.

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