The Delaware City Schools Board of Education and Delaware City Council came together Monday for their annual joint meeting to discuss the future of the city and the school district.
The meeting was held at Willis Education Center after the school board’s regular meeting and began with a presentation from COSI Vice President of External Affairs Stephen White, who told both bodies about the upcoming COSI Science Festival that will be held in Delaware. White explained the festival is about introducing science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) to as many people as possible in an attempt to inspire people to maybe consider a career in STEM.
“One of the challenges that we know that we face on a day-to-day basis is on the issue of workforce,” White said. “If you look at the numbers today, we’ve got about 159,000 jobs that have opened in the state of Ohio, and the challenge we have is that we have 200,000 Ohioans that are currently unemployed. What are the things we need to do to get those 200,000 unemployed to get the skills necessary to get those jobs today and get those jobs in the future.”
White added central Ohio is projected to grow by a million people by 2050, and the sooner STEM is introduced to that growing population, the better.
“What the data tells us is if you can expose people to STEM — science, technology, engineering and math — at their comfort level, they are more inclined to be comfortable about those subject matters and they’ll want to go into those career paths in the future,” White said.
White added the COSI Science Festival will take place May 6-9, and the first three days will have events spread out over 18 communities, including Delaware for the first time, to bring STEM to people at their comfort level.
On May 9, the Big Science Celebration will be held in downtown Columbus. White said tens of thousands of people will be in attendance for the free event. White thanked Mayor Carolyn Riggle and city council for bringing the event to Delaware.
Assistant City Manager Kyle Kridler said he believes the event will be a big help in creating a STEM workforce in the future.
“This is the first year that Delaware can be a part of the COSI Science Festival,” Kridler said. “We thought this would be an appropriate meeting, being between the city and our academic partners at the city schools, to show that these relationships do matter. They matter to the community for future workforce development efforts, especially for the city. We want to encourage more white collar jobs within the community, and we think this is a great partnership to get people excited about STEM education and awareness, and shepherd in the next generation of workers.”
The COSI presentation was followed by a proclamation and award from the mayor and COSI for Tajudeen Bakare, a Delaware resident and engineer, who was selected as a “STEM Star” and will be one of the grand marshals for the Science Festival.
Riggle said Bakare has volunteered in a variety of capacities for the community, including the local STEM Club.
After COSI did a brief demonstration with liquid nitrogen, Dave Efland, the city’s planning and community development director, gave a short presentation about the state of the growth in the city.
“I think good things are on the horizon for Delaware and central Ohio,” Efland said. “If we didn’t have such great school districts covering our community, we would not be seeing growth in our community at all.”
Efland said the city approved the highest number of residential permits ever in 2019 with a total of 750. He said 377 were for new single-family dwellings and 373 were for non-single family dwellings. Efland added the new developments will be about 50% within Delaware City Schools. He said the exact total is flexible because different developments are completed faster than others.
Efland estimated the city has grown by about 8,500 residents since 2010, and he estimated the total population of the city to be about 43,000 as of the end of 2019.
“That’s generally a good thing, but we have to manage that,” Efland said.
Efland said 2019 was the city’s eighth straight year of having more than 200 commercial permits filed. He added not all of them are for new businesses, because things like additions or expansions are included. Efland did note businesses are continuing to come to Delaware.
Speaking on future growth for the city, Efland said his department has focused on five specific areas within the city: the southwest side, the southeast side, downtown, South Sandusky Street, and suburban development on the northeast part of the city.
Delaware City Manager Tom Homan also touched on the proposed street that would bridge Penick Avenue and Cobblestone Drive. He said the road will be used to access the new reconfigured bus drop-off for Schultz Elementary.
“The city has designed the project, and the schools have agreed to a participation, financially, in that,” Homan said. Homan said the extension was something that was discussed when Schultz was first built. “The timing is really important. It’s going to be a 20-month project, and we want to make sure it’s going to be completed in conjunction with the new addition.”
Delaware Board of Education President Matt Weller asked Homan about the status of the Point Project, and Homan said the project is in the environmental review stage now. Homan said the city is working with the railroad company, because they have to build a temporary bridge before the old bridge can be torn down.
“We are still on target for that project to start around 2021, 2022,” Homan said. “That’ll be the largest transportation project the city has ever undertaken. It’s still on track.”
Superintendent Heidi Kegley told council the district continues to grow and will expand many buildings within the district. She noted the district won’t be adding any new schools.
Delaware City Schools Director of Facilities and Transportation Jason Sherman briefed council on the upcoming construction projects at Carlisle Elementary, Schultz Elementary and Dempsey Middle School. He thanked the city for its cooperation in planning those expansions.
Delaware City Schools Treasurer Melissa Swearingen gave council an update on when the district will next be on the ballot.
Swearingen said a 10-year substitute levy that was approved in 2010 will be up for renewal this year, and a renewal of a five-year emergency levy will be on the ballot in 2022. Swearingen said the district is not looking to generate new dollars with another levy over the next couple of years.
Glenn Battishill can be reached at 740-413-0903 or on Twitter @BattishillDG.