COLUMBUS GROVE — Educators were ready and excited about the start of the 2019-20 school year, which began on Wednesday.

The Columbus Grove School District conducted an Open House for students and their parents to help prepare them for the big day on Wednesday. The board of education met following the open house for their monthly meeting.

Superintendent Nick Verhoff said the enrollment figures should be similar to last year. He said they had a great turnout for the open house and students were excited to be starting back and seeing who their teachers will be. Part of the school district lies in Allen County and with the Allen County Fair starting last week, there will be some Columbus Grove students who will be participating. Verhoff said they will do what they can to accommodate their participation at the fair.

Columbus Grove Treasurer Mark Ellerbrock reported a $486,268.01 income tax settlement was received from the Ohio Department of Taxation on July 30. This settlement is an increase of $30,942.74, which is a 6.79% increase from one year ago. Calendar year to date, income tax collections are up $1,600.39 compared to last year.

Ellerbrock also reported a $13,342.50 School Safety Grant was received from the Ohio Bureau of Workers Compensation on July 19, for the installation of window security film and security cameras. The bureau’s School Safety and Security Grant Program provides assistance to Ohio employers with ensuring the safety of their staff who instruct children throughout Ohio. Last September, the Ohio Attorney General’s office awarded $12 million in grants to help enhance the safety and security at schools across Ohio.

Ellerbrock said the new state budget indicated Columbus Grove schools will receive $135,059 in Student Wellness and Success funds for fiscal year 2020, which is a new category of aid. Currently there is no indication as to exactly when such funds will be received. There are very limited categories which such funds can be used, however improving student mental health appears to be the most likely expenditure category.

The nearly $70 billion, two-year spending plan was signed by Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine last month. The plan cuts personal income taxes by four percent and provides new mental health and wraparound services to students by investing new, targeting funding of $675 million over the biennium to support student wellness and success in school. The budget was increased to $9.3 billion in fiscal year 2020 and $9.4 billion in fiscal year 2021. Lawmakers also changed high school graduation requirements in the budget plan which was designed to decrease reliance on standardized testing.

Verhoff thanked Dale Schroeder, maintenance director, and his staff, on the great job they did over the summer. Schroeder reported to the board the summer crew all had experience working previous summers, some for three or four years so they knew the routine. He said he is finishing up some “odds and ends” and plans on focusing on finishing all the classrooms in time for the first day of school. Verhoff said the maintenance staff did a lot of things on their own. He said the building appears to be very inviting with “a lot of school spirit.”

Elementary Principal Brad Calvelage reported the orientation held last Thursday had a good turnout as did the kindergarten orientation held earlier this day and they are “ready to go.”

High School Principal Brian Best also said the orientation was successful. He noted the two new educators for the upcoming school year - Lisa Schroeder, Seventh Grade English teacher, and Abbie Norton, seventh through grade 12 Health and Physical Education, will be wonderful additions to the staff. He also noted he saw a lot of smiles on parent faces during the open house.

The next regular meeting of the Columbus Grove Board of Education is scheduled for board meeting was scheduled for Monday, Sept. 16, at 8 p.m. in the school library.