By Joshua Benton
Blade Staff Writer
At 5 feet, 1 inch tall, 17-year-old Beth Laux has a tough time navigating the halls of Perrysburg High School.
During the four minutes she has between classes, she and more than 1,000 of her schoolmates burst out of their classrooms and scamper hurriedly to their lockers and their next classes.
And, as overcrowded as Perrysburg High is now, that’s no small feat.
“Everyone’s got these big bookbags, and it’s easy to get lost in the middle of the crowd,” Beth said. Several times, she’s feared for her safety in the swarm.
During her 30-minute lunch period, she often spends 25 of them in a long line to get food. In the restrooms, there are often five or six people in line ahead of her.
“I don’t think people realize how crowded it is,” Beth said. “You get knocked around all the time.”
That overcrowding was the reason school board officials proposed, for the third time, a $42.9-million bond issue to build a larger high school. The current Perrysburg High School was built to hold 1,105 students; it now holds 1,289, a number projected to rise further in the future.
When voters rejected that measure Tuesday, Beth said she was “very disappointed” at their decision.
But many citizens in downtown Perrysburg yesterday considered the levy a waste of available money and facilities, and were overjoyed at the news that it had been defeated.
“I’m so happy,” said Kathy Bayer, a hairstylist at the Kimmy-Kay Beauty Salon. “You’d think after three tries, the school board would learn that people in town just don’t want it.”
Ron Mossing, who owns more than $1 million worth of property in Perrysburg, has coffee every morning with about a dozen friends.
Yesterday morning, he did an informal poll of their votes the day before. Only one man said he had favored the bond issue.
“They know something has to be done about crowding, but they don’t feel it was necessary to use all that money on a new school with all the frills,” Mr. Mossing said.
Many observers have said the debate divided along cultural lines: citizens who have lived in Perrysburg for generations against those who have arrived in the last 10 years.
Many newcomers are young couples with above-average incomes and children. While their influx is a cause of the high school’s overcrowding, many also are willing to pay for the new school.
On the other hand, many older residents have ties to the current high school and, without young children, less desire for higher property taxes.
I think because they’re in Perrysburg, the school board thinks they’ll keep getting money, money, money,” said Ms. Bayer, who lived in town 30 years before moving out. “Not everybody in Perrysburg can afford to keep giving.”
But some proponents of the levy said the city’s wealth – including many highly valued homes – should guarantee that schools receive all the funding they need.
“I’m sad that we live in a community that is rich in everything – beautiful homes, nice parks – and we can’t do this,” said a Perrysburg High alum who has lived in town 21 years but declined to be identified.
“I think the older people in this town need to realize the school system is what’s giving them a nice place to live in. I’m personally embarrassed to say I live in Perrysburg,” she said.
Levy opponents argued an addition to the school could alleviate crowding at a lower price.
“This is the first time I’ve ever voted ‘no’ on anything Perrysburg schools wanted,” said Tom Kazmaier, who has spent 40 years in town. “But it’s just not the best use of the current facilities.”
He said the school board stubbornly stuck by its plan and was unwilling to examine other alternatives. “They need to get a little more input from citizens,” he said.
“We were hoping it would pass,” said Anne Kilpatrick, who was shopping downtown with her three children: Emily, 11; Lindsay, 9 1/2; and Kelly, 3. “The schools are too crowded as it is. It can’t continue this way.”
She said Emily spent the last school year in a portable building.