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Licking County Voters Once Again Reject Levy To Replace Deterioriating Elementary

Front of 106-year old Hebron Elementary School.
Debbie Holmes
Front of 106-year old Hebron Elementary School.

Voters in Licking County once again rejected a bond levy for Lakewood School District. It would have raised more than $31 million to replace the 106-year-old Hebron Elementary building.

“My heart goes out to our kids and our teachers and everyone who worked so hard for this, and the need is still there,” says superintendent Mary Kay Andrews.

This latest attempt to pass a bond issue was the fourth one in two years. But Tuesday's "no" vote was 57%, which was even higher than 53% rejection last fall. The spring turnout saw 857 fewer voters, though.

Andrews says Ohio's delay of the March primary due to the coronavirus pandemic could have played a role.

“Whether it was the economic downturn, the change in the election, the absentee ballots, that whole process, it may I can’t say for sure, but it probably had some kind of impact,” Andrews says.

Andrews says the money is needed to replace Hebron Elementary, which opened in 1914.

“We do not have air conditioning in that building, so that creates an environment that is hot and humid and is difficult to manage,” she says.

Andrews says the district has maximized the capability of Hebron by splitting up elementary grades. K-2 graders normally attend Hebron Elementary, while 3rd graders transfer to a separate building and 4th-5th graders combine in another.

“Our facilities need work,” Andrews says. “We are basically running four buildings where we could build one and it would be more cost efficient in the end.”

For homeowners, a new bond levy would raise their property taxes by $133 for every $100,000 of home value.

“We need a more comfortable learning environment for our students,” Andrews says. “We need to be able to access technology better and in an older building it’s more difficult.”

Andrews is retiring soon, and says it will be up to her replacement and the school board to try again.

“The board will weigh in on that,” Andrews says. “People know there’s a need. Unfortunately, we haven’t been able to get across the finish line here with a passage of the bond.”

Debbie Holmes has worked at WOSU News since 2009. She has hosted All Things Considered, since May 2021. Prior to that she was the host of Morning Edition and a reporter.