( Cincinnati ) - "We're doing the best we can with the resources we have, but when you're talking about the safety of kids... we want to be more proactive." That from Oak Hills School Superintendent Jeff Brandt when talking about a levy the district is putting on the ballot later this summer.
Hamilton County Auditor Dusty Rhodes says there will be just one levy for voters to decide in the special election to be held in a little over a month: a 4.9-mill operating levy for the Oak Hills School District. Rhodes has created a way for homeowners to search their property and see how this proposed levy would affect them. The school district posted an FAQ when the levy was first announced back in May, saying it would cost $14 per $100,000 of home value.
Superintendent Brandt tells 700WLW the money would go toward a multi-layered increase in school safety. Since the spring, former Green Twp Police Chief Bart West has been working on recommendations to upgrade safety at Oak Hills Schools, and "once those recommendations came through, and based on our funding mechanisms, it was clear pretty quickly that we weren't going to implement the recommendations based on our current forecast," said Brandt.
Those recommendations involve hiring three more armed school resource officers to complement the two already on staff. Brandt says in addition to those hires, the district also wants to hire its own additional security team made up of retired law enforcement officers. And Brandt says it's not just about armed officers. "Another big thing is we're looking to add mental health experts. So that's behavioral specialists, that's also specialists with a skill set to be able to link our students and families to social services in our community," Brandt said. The other layer to the safety increase is upgrades to the infrastructure of school buildings in the district: adding security to some entryways and removing glass doors.
Brandt says a recent survey was conducted among Oak Hills stakeholders that said the vast majority of people are satisfied with the quality of education in the district, but also they said there's a need for more school resource officers and mental health experts. Brandt calls the proposed upgrades "phase one recommendations," with future phases to involve potential camera and technology enhancements.
Voters in the district will decide in the August 7 Special Election.