DORA sending wrong message? Perrysburg school board debates

PERRYSBURG — A resolution to limit Designated Outdoor Refreshment Area access to the Commodore Building school yard property was discussed by the board of education during the regular working group meeting on Tuesday.

Members of the public have brought up concerns about the recently expanded DORA.

“I’m struggling with this, because the optics are bad,” board member Sue Larimer said. “It’s the mixed message that’s bothering me about it. It’s telling kids ‘Don’t do alcohol. Don’t drink alcohol, under-age, or whatever, and then we’re permitting it on the property.”

“We’re not supporting underage drinking on the property though. I think that’s where you are getting confused,” interrupted board member Kelly Ewbank.

“I’m not confused. I know what underage drinking is,” Larimer quickly responded. “I just think it’s a mixed message. I just think we need to hold school property up at a higher level.”

Superintendent Tom Hosler said that this property is very much a part of the downtown, but also pointed out that drinks will not be allowed in the Commodore building. There are also venues holding student athletic events that allow alcoholic beverages. Bowling, golf and hockey each are held in facilities that sell alcoholic beverages.

“We are not condoning it,” Hosler said. “On any given night, at 5th Street (pub) you will see families eating, with kids, in the restaurant setting. So in some ways this is kind of an extension of that restaurant.”

In his research, he found that the Ohio Revised Code does not restrict alcoholic beverages from public school grounds.

On the advice of the Perrysburg Police Division earlier this year, city council expanded the geographic area of the downtown DORA to be less of a patchwork of boundaries allowing the purchase and drinking of alcoholic beverages, during specific hours, to be more of an easily understood rectangular area.

It is basically now Fifth Street to Elm Street and Front Street to Walnut Street. That area includes the Commodore school yard, which is known for regular events like the car show, farmers market and the Harrison Rally Day.

Hosler pointed out that the school is not selling alcohol, nor are people allowed to bring their own beverages; they must follow the DORA rules.

Board members discussed the idea of limiting the DORA area to just the Commodore lawn and eliminating alcohol consumption from other areas, like the parking lots.

Board member Lori Reffert, Ph.D., asked if there might be an option to opt out of the DORA in the future.

Board President Eric Benington had already talked with a council member and attended a council safety committee meeting where the DORA expansion was discussed and noted the positive marks given to the first DORA boundaries.

Ewbank was not in favor of changing the boundaries.

“I don’t see the need to carve out the Commodore property and the parking lot. I think that confuses it,” Ewbank said.

A first draft of a resolution to limit the DORA was already drawn up by the school board legal counsel, but no vote was taken on Tuesday.

Part of that draft included limitations on smoking, vaping and chewing tobacco use on the property, which Hosler said could be removed, noting that the city, not the schools, is policing the events.

The meeting wrapped up with the board going into executive session for the purpose of discussing specialized details of security arrangements.