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Forest Hills School district may sell Anderson High School, parents concerned about transparency

Forest Hills School District headquarters in Anderson Township
Posted at 12:29 PM, Oct 05, 2022
and last updated 2022-10-05 18:55:32-04

ANDERSON TOWNSHIP, Ohio — Forest Hills School District is considering selling Anderson High School in an effort to consolidate the district.

Concerned parents raised the alarm at a board meeting last month after learning design firm Elevar was meeting with district leaders and township officials about a proposal to sell the high school.

The plan would essentially merge Anderson and Turpin into one school on the site of the current Turpin High School and Mercer Elementary School. The proposal calls for elementary school students to be moved to other schools throughout the district.

Several community members said the Board of Education is not being transparent.

“The board and the directors have made no effort whatsoever to be more transparent with our community to this date," said Kristen Kalonick, a board member for Advocate FSHD. "So, what we’re really asking for them to come forward, be open and transparent with the plan. If this is really, truly an innovative solution that will solve our funding issues, then why not share it with the public? Why not be open?"

The school district did send a letter to parents on Sept. 23.

"The district is currently analyzing and reviewing a concept to reimagine the configuration of our school district," said superintendent Larry Hook.

However, parents are upset they haven't heard any further from the school district. They said it appears most of the conversations have been private or off the record.

"I mean the biggest thing is the lack of transparency we have in the community. There is a lack of trust in the community with its elected officials whether we’re talking about the school board or trustees, and right now more than anything, we’re just asking for information on what’s happening because this is something that affects all of us," said Jason Simmons.

The current school board cited financial problems caused by the previous school board as the reason behind the proposal to consolidate the schools. Advocate FHSD said they are concerned that discussions with developers have moved beyond "simply listening."

"The public deserves to know. The community deserves to have the opportunity to ask the questions that they want to see asked and answered ultimately, unfortunately, that’s not the way this has been handled, and I think it’s really fomented distrust in the community," Kalonick said.

Kimberly Oltahoff said they conducted a survey to gauge the community's reaction to the proposed plan.

"We have done a community survey. We had about 500 respondents, a little bit over 500 respondents and overwhelming people were either not interested in revisiting the school consolidation efforts or would only be willing to consider it with a different board," Oltahoff said.

The Mayor of Newtown also released a statement about the possible consolidation. Mayor Mark Kobasuk said the merge would impact the Newtown students.

The township also released a statement that insists meetings with the developer have not gone any further than just an initial proposal.

Superintendent Hook sent a lengthy letter to Forest Hills families addressing the situation. Below is a portion of that letter:

"The district is currently analyzing and reviewing a concept to reimagine the configuration of our school district. No final decision has been made. We have just begun the process to determine what educational opportunities and impacts could result from the potential adoption of this concept, both positive and negative. In addition, potential financial benefits are being researched and reviewed. To be clear, I have made no recommendation to the Board regarding any proposal like this and I have no reason to believe the Board has come to any decision. I assure you, I will not make any recommendation to the Board and community without being resolutely confident it is in the best interest of our students. Our students are, and will continue to be, my priority and my focus as Superintendent of Forest Hills School District."

Both Turpin and Anderson have a combined student population of more than 2,300 students.

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