SUNBURY — An Early Childhood Grant Fund was approved at the Aug. 17 Big Walnut Board of Education meeting.

The grant amount is $276,250, “which will be used to upgrade accessibility at The Early Learning Center (playgrounds and other interior needs),” the agenda said. The district received a letter informing it of the grant from the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) on Aug. 7.

Superintendent Ryan McLane said the ODE grant was applied for to upgrade the building, formerly known as Harrison Street Elementary School.

“That building is not very handicap-accessible, especially the playground,” he said. While the district made some improvements, McLane called them “a drop in the bucket. … I’m looking forward to helping that building out.”

Director of Student Services Ross Linscott was thanked for his help in securing the grant.

The Early Learning Center is at 70 W. Harrison St., Sunbury. Preschool is taught in the building. Jessica Shelton is the principal.

At the nearly hour-long meeting on Aug. 17, the board also:

• Approved the bus stops for the 2023-2024 school year.

• Approved a contract with Reach Education Services LLC “for the purpose of providing an educational placement to students.”

• The creation of a new afterschool program, the Big Walnut High School Key Club, an offshoot of Kiwanis.

• Renewed agreements with Nationwide Children’s Hospital, Inc.; RJP Interpreting, LLC; The Learning Spectrum, LTD; and The K Company.

• Approved by consent personnel moves, including a $23/hourly tutoring rate and raising the substitute pay rate to $13.50 an hour for custodian, maintenance, secretary and teaching assistant.

“Following our July meeting we had one outstanding public records request,” Treasurer Darren Jenkins wrote to the board prior to the meeting. “It is still outstanding pending legal review. From the period of July 14 until August 17, 2023, we have had three new requests. I have copied and forwarded those requests to legal for their input due to their complexity and length. We will have a legal invoice regarding the outstanding (requests). The approximate number of BWLS hours spent on answering these requests is: 15 hours. This includes both the treasurer, his office and the IT staff. We have attempted to streamline the process to make it more efficient, decrease response time and allow for better tracking of future requests for public records.”

Jenkins said his department has three goals for the near future: Transparency, processes, and staffing due to spring retirements. He asked the board to let him know if they had any other goals in mind.

There was no public participation. The Big Walnut Elementary PTO donated $5,593.60 to that school’s principal fund. The next regular meeting is Sept. 20.

In other business, McLane said the board should be able to start going over proposed district policy changes in September. Board Member Steve Fujii congratulated the district for making gains in nearly every area on the upcoming State Report Card. Board Member Alice Nicks reminded the public that it is state law to stop when a school bus is picking up or unloading passengers.

The board also held a special meeting on Aug. 23. At that nearly-hour-long meeting, Board President Doug Crowl echoed Nicks’ sentiments in light of a fatality in a school bus accident caused by a motorist that had just happened in Springfield, Ohio.

“If you see the bus, act like it’s a yellow light at a traffic signal and proceed with caution, please,” Crowl said. “Drive a little different when you see it on the road.”

In comments, board member Angela Graziosi praised the district’s new staff.

In other business, board member Todd Smith was named liaison to the Big Walnut Education Foundation.

Assistant Editor Gary Budzak covers the eastern half of Delaware County and surrounding areas. He may be reached at [email protected].