A new Bowling Green High School will strengthen the economic stability of the city and entice families to move here, according to a recently formed committee of community members
Bowling Green Families for Schools has been meeting weekly since January in an effort to lobby for a November ballot issue to build a new high school – and to run the campaign if the board of education decides to make another attempt for the new facility.
“We are urging and advocating and lobbying school board members that this is the best way forward,” said Jeff Dennis, who is treasurer of Bowling Green Families for Schools.
Dennis, who is a 2009 BGHS graduate, said the loss of a similar issue for a new high school was “heartbreaking.”
The $70 million issue that appeared on the November 2022 ballot lost by fewer than 450 votes.
“But there has been a lot of talk. … What our group is focused on, there are a lot of members in the community that do support that initiative,” said Dennis, who also is an at-large Bowing Green city councilman.
The price tag keeps going up while the condition of the school buildings is going to start adversely impacting the community, he said.
This project could have been done years ago at a much lower cost, Dennis said.
In November 2017 and again in May 2018, a $72 million bond issue failed that would have renovated and expanded the high school – and paid for the construction of one new elementary school.
Abbott, which has announced it is going to build a $500 million facility north of the city, is set to create 450 permanent new jobs.
And those with families are going to start looking for a nearby school system, Dennis said.
“We’re only a few years away from hundreds of families needing to make that decision. This is really a watershed moment,” he said.
Otsego, Eastwood and Elmwood all have more modern facilities and are a short drive from Bowling Green, he said.
“We’re at a huge disadvantage,” Dennis said.
Failure to make a long-term investment in facilities is limiting the city’s economic development potential, he said. It is also creating an environment where kids are not getting the best environment, Dennis said.
He said Bowling Green is investing in its schools at a lower rate than Fostoria, based on information he’s gotten from the Wood County Auditor’s Office.
“When I see numbers like that, that is very alarming,” Dennis said.
That shows other districts are valuing education more than the Bowling Green community, and “that is hugely problematic for me.”
Dennis said while the elementaries also are in need of attention, there are still necessary conversations to hold around that issue.
“If the school board decides to go with another plan, there is no denying the need for updated facilities, and that is as true at the elementaries as the high school.”
A district facilities advisory committee recommended a new high school at a community forum in March 2022. Ninety-five percent of the committee agreed that building a new high school was the way to go.
A high school, “is one building that all of our kids will go to,” Dennis said.
“Our teachers do a phenomenal job with very little resources,” he said.
Dennis said he hopes everyone can support a new high school and the goal of his group is to build partnerships with major stakeholders in the community.
He said they will use what they’ve learned from the last several levy attempts and determine what they can do differently.
He said the group is also looking for people to step up and run for the two board of education seats that may be opening.
Ginny Stewart and Jill Carr announced at a special board meeting earlier this month that they did not plan to run for reelection in November.
Dennis said having two new board members, a new superintendent and a new high school is another big moment in the district.
Superintendent Francis Scruci has announced his intent to retire July 31.
Dennis attended this month’s forum for business leaders to discuss the skills needed in a new superintendent. He said people are looking for someone who can bridge the gap with rural voters, as well as someone who can communicate effectively. The new superintendent also must be able to understand the issues facing those living at or below the poverty line, Dennis said.
For more information, visit www.bgffs.com.
Other members of the committee:
Will Airhart, Crim parent
Joe Higgins, Kenwood parent
Trevor Jesse, board of public utilities
Andy Newlove, Newlove Realty Inc.
Rachel Phipps, Bowling Green council
Ryan Phipps, Phipps Levin Hebeka & Assoc.
Amy Simmons, Hub Group Inc.
Nathaniel E. Spitler, Spitler Huffman, LLP
Christina Spitler, Wonderland of Learning School Age Center