District searches policy on building use after religious group inquiry

Superintendent: Fellowship of Christian Athletes already active

GRANVILLE — Religious groups using school facilities became a matter of discussion at the Putnam County School Board meeting Monday.

An inquiry by a church group concerning the prospect of meeting at the high school for their worship services, along with a Freedom of Information Act request regarding the district’s stance and policies on such a use, prompted discussion about whether a distinction should be made between religious groups and non-religious groups who seek to use school facilities.

Having contacted the school attorney regarding the request, superintendent Carl Carlson said “we do allow other community groups to use our school facilities; whether that’s Cub Scouts, Rotary, Red Cross — we have a wide variety of that. The big reason I contacted our school attorney is that to my recollection, it’s the first religious-based group that’s requested use of the facilities.”

Carlson added, “currently we have a Fellowship of Christian Athletes group at the high school — it just got formulated at the end of last year. The staff that volunteer to take that on — it’s not a paid position, it’s not in their collective bargaining — they can conduct activities outside of the school days as long as they have approval and it’s not interfering with a school scheduled activity — and it’s by student choice.”

“We’re finding that the students are interested in participating, regardless of their affiliation.” Carlson added, “four of the five districts I’ve worked in have a formal FCA group.”

“With that, the district’s stance is that we don’t take a preference on one denomination over another.”

Carlson continued, “when I talked to our board attorney, he was simply cautious on whether we denied access, because it becomes discriminatory towards a group over others. Depending on how the board wants to proceed, we can alter our facility use policy, but he cautions on the scope of how much we want to change that, based on certain things.”

Regarding the school building, Carlson said, “the stance is that it’s a publicly supported building by local tax dollars. If a local group wants to use the facility, the district wants to be careful on denying that access, regardless of affiliation.”

Carlson recommended that this become a topic for discussion at the next policy committee meeting.

State funding, water tank

Carlson reported that the district received payment for the fourth quarter categorical sections for fiscal year 2018, and in fiscal year 2019, the state owes the district $206,580.04. Of this total, $129,000 is for transportation, $43,800 is for Preschool For All, $31,000 is for special education and $2,600 is for driver’s education.

When asked for an update on the progress on the junior high water tank replacement project, Carlson said the work is on pace, paperwork has been signed and the EPA plan is just about complete.

He added that the specification requirements for the building in which the new tank is housed have been changed, for the whole tank must be completely contained within a building, rather than partially enclosed. Carlson did not anticipate much of a difference in price utilizing the complete building approach.

Additionally, Carlson anticipates the district entering a bidding process for this work beginning in November, depending on what the scope of the work will be.

Also, the board approved

The Administrator and Teacher’s Salary and Benefits Report, totaling nearly $4 million in base salaries, with nearly $400,000 in retirement enhancements and more than $775,000 in other benefits — for a total of 77 employees. This report can be found at the Putnam County CUSD #535 Board of Education website.

A adding AXA Advisors LLC to the Pen Serve Plan, the district’s third-party provider for 403b plans. This action adds no cost to the district and allows newer staff members with an established history with this company to continue with uninterrupted coverage.

The hiring of John Husser, sixth-grade boys basketball coach; A.J. Foster, seventh-grade boys basketball coach; and Maricille Ellena, junior high Scholastic Bowl coach.