It’s not only students who can benefit from a great school system.
Some business owners believe good schools provide an uptick in their business as well as providing intelligent employees, and real estate agents are almost always asked about the school system.
It’s something to think about when a community is considering passing a school bond to upgrade the schools. On Tuesday, May 8, Ohio County voters will say yes or no to the $42.2 million school bond on the ballot.
ABOUT THE OHIO COUNTY SCHOOL BOND INITIATIVE:
- The bond will be for $42.2 million over 15 years.
- If approved locally, the West Virginia School Building Authority is expected to provide an additional $27 million in funding for the project.
- The bond will cost the average taxpayer approximately $120 per year or about $10 per month, (based on someone who owns a home appraised at approximately $100,000).
- Funding for the bond initiative will result in significant improvements in all of the county schools.
- Plans for the bond initiative include improved security in each of the schools. Major improvements include a new media center and science labs at Wheeling Park High School, a new annex at Triadelphia Middle School and a new cafeteria at Steenrod Elementary School.
- Some of the most important aspects of the proposed bond initiative are improvements at Wheeling Park High School. An important goal of the project is the modernization of the science labs at the school, as well as improving the infrastructure so that the school system can employ state-of-the-art technology in the instructional methods, preparing students for future workplace needs.
More information is available at the Ohio County Schools website.
Informational meetings have been held at area schools since March 26, with the final meeting set for 5 p.m. Monday, May 7, at Wheeling Park High School. Improvements at the high school will be discussed.
The following is a Q&A with Realtors/real estate agents and area business owners.
WEELUNK: What questions do potential homebuyers ask in regard to area schools?
MISSY ASHMORE/Realtor: They research test scores and student activities. They ask about classroom size and if the school can accommodate their child’s needs. Whether their child is a standout athlete or has a learning disability. They ask, “Is this the best school for my child?”
MARGIE KERR MOLNAR/Realtor: Whether the potential homebuyers have children or just anticipate that one day they may have children, the question I often hear is, “which school should my child go to?” The parents want to make certain that the schools their children go to meet specific needs or desires the students may have.
ROBERT STRASSER/senior real estate specialist: It mostly depends on the type of buyer. The Millennials with kids are well educated on school ratings, and they are highly motivated to locate in the neighborhoods with the best schools. The older generation looking to downsize are more interested in the arts and cultural activities.
WEELUNK: Would you say a majority of your clients put a value on the schools when looking at neighborhoods?
ASHMORE: Buyers with children make it a priority to research the school system and the specific schools their children would attend. They are extremely interested in what schools are best in the area. It’s important for families to be inside the school district. Schools are often at capacity at certain grade levels. Attending a school outside of their neighborhood is possible but not guaranteed. Wheeling is neighborhood-centric. We value the schools we attended as children. We think ours is the best. I believe that is tied to the teachers and staff. We know the teachers. We value them. We want our children to have the best experience they can have. I’m impressed with all of our schools. Each one is unique and each is making a tremendous impact on their neighborhoods. They have amazing teachers and staff. They do their job with resources they have. We are so fortunate to have dedicated and experienced people at all of our schools. It’s easy to convince a family to choose Ohio County over Belmont County if education is their top priority.
MOLNAR: Absolutely! I’ve noticed that many homebuyers prefer to be in proximity to the schools of their choice. Buyers new to the area tend to do their research, and they already know what schools they want their children to go to; this helps the agents find homes for them in the neighborhoods near those schools.
STRASSER: For me, it evenly split since I work with both types of buyers. [Millennials and those in the older generation]
WEELUNK: How does the quality of a school system impact property values?
ASHMORE: Whether or not buyers have school-age children or not, their property values will be impacted by the strength of the school system in the community. Property values are directly impacted by the schools. The Woodsdale/Oakmont area are most popular and carry the highest property value because the two elementary schools, Woodsdale and Steenrod, are highly sought after by parents.
MOLNAR: Is it the chicken or the egg? Are the schools in the more affluent areas getting more attention and updates because the community requires that, or are the quality of the schools attracting more affluent families, thus pushing up property values? I am confident that the teachers, staff, and administration in all of our local schools are equally qualified and motivated to teach and care for the children in our community. Yet some schools seem to be afforded more opportunities to improve their physical environment, which in turn, attracts buyers. So, I guess it’s a little of both.
STRASSER: Just by watching [my children] Diane and Nate purchase their homes, I know it has a positive impact on home values. Both were able to research the school system and narrow their search to a specific district and neighborhood. It’s interesting because they both paid full asking price just to be in a certain school district. A report titled, “Using Market Valuation to Assess Public School Spending,” found that for every dollar spent on public schools in a community, home values increased $20. These findings indicate that additional school expenditures may benefit everyone in the community, whether or not those residents actually have children in the local public school system.
WEELUNK: As a small business owner, how does the bond issue affect you and your establishment?
DANIEL FINSLEY/Wheeling Threads: Good schools welcome and keep more citizens in our city. More citizens and higher populations mean more foot traffic. More foot traffic means a positive impact on our city’s businesses. I feel like that’s the common consensus. Or at least it should be. The current bond issue, in my sincere opinion, is something that is a must. Buildings such as schools go through the ringer nine months out of the year, so there has to be an upkeep initiative. By creating a more modern facade, safer surroundings inside and out, that will bring comfort to not only the children, but to the parents, and surrounding citizens. A minuscule property tax increase a year is a small price to pay to continue bringing this city up with the times, and improved infrastructure. How else do the surrounding communities expect it to be done in such a concise and timely fashion? I say go for it, ladies and gents.
LARA GRAVES/Avenue Eats, Whisk: We are 100 percent in favor of the bond. As a business, we don’t see how this may/may not affect us directly or see it bringing additional residents but, nonetheless, we look forward to it passing. From a personal perspective, we have many reasons how the countywide improvements will benefit the community and quality of life for students and families.
MITCH HADDAD/Later Alligator: I have a host who’s graduating from Park [Wheeling Park High School] in a few days. In the almost year that she’s worked here, she’s grown to be one of my powerhouse hosts. She’s an unfathomably talented artist, conversational in Korean, passed a handful of AP classes and got herself into the National Honor Society. She matriculates in the fall to WVU to study Chinese and business. I have another fella who hosts a few nights a week. He also helps me with whatever odd projects I find myself in keeping the wheels greased around here. He lettered his junior and senior years in cross country … is in both the National Honors Society and the Career Technical National Honors Society and will be attending Marshall University in the fall. Both are the product of Wheeling Park High School. They’ll both likely work here on their breaks and vacations. Why do I need a school levy with 42 million dollars of HVAC and facade improvements? Because I want A grade schools that can attract A grade families to the area. Those families come to dinner, their kids work here. This isn’t an easy job — I need smart humans with a proper breadth of life experiences. I can’t get that with run-down, broken buildings and failing infrastructure. Their education and opportunities are the foundation of everything I want this community to build. I’m a 30-something who invested here. I want more young people here. I want them to go to college and come back. Powerhouse schools are one of the big bricks in that wall.
DAVE McFARLAND/Mmm…Popcorn: I believe the bond issue will help local businesses by providing improved facilities in an already good school system that would be attractive to a company starting up or relocating to the Wheeling area. A business owner will want access to good schools for their employees and for their own families. And the upgrades, backed by the people, are a bellwether for how the local community feels about itself. The thing that stands out most to me, though, is the plan to enhance the vocational training. I feel that this is an underserved aspect of the education system. The students who work in these programs can become highly skilled craftsmen/women and have great careers — right here in Wheeling. The availability of skilled craftspeople is also an aspect of the community that is attractive to larger firms and to existing businesses in the area.
NINI ZADROZNY/Nini’s Treasures: Well, if all the upgrades to the various schools happens, the people of the Ohio Valley have to absorb some of this if they raise tax dollars to help pay for it … when this happens there will be less spending, which ultimately could impact spending power to stores like mine.
• After nearly 38 years as reporter, bureau chief, lifestyles editor and managing editor at The Times Leader, and design editor at The Intelligencer and Wheeling News-Register, Phyllis Sigal has joined Weelunk as managing editor. She lives in Wheeling with her husband Bruce Wheeler. Along with their two children, son-in-law and two grandchildren, food, wine, travel, theater and music are close to their hearts.