Newton to offer religious instruction


By Matt Clevenger

For the Miami Valley Today

PLEASANT HILL — Members of the Newton Local Schools Board of Education are moving forward with plans to offer students elective, Bible-based schooling within the public school district, through the new LifeWise Academy program.

“We are definitely pioneering that,” board member Lisa Hildebrand said. “I’m super proud of it.”

Based in Defiance, LifeWise Academy works with local school districts to provide Bible-based character education during school hours. Participating students are released from school for religious classes, designated “released time religious instruction.”

Newton was one of the first local districts to participate in the LifeWise Academy program. Board members discussed the program’s progress during their regularly scheduled meeting on Wednesday, July 14.

“The sign-up is going well,” Superintendent Pat McBride said. “We have about 40 kids right now.”

“Money is starting to come in as well,” McBride said. “I think we’re up to $20,000 there, so things are looking good.”

“We have three more sign-ups with the Farmers’ Market and then also the first few weeks of school,” he said. “It’s about a month for kids to sign-up and for parents to get more information. That’s going really well.”

In other business, board members also approved an annual resolution authorizing supplemental employment and a new five-year assistant maintenance contract with Mike Knupp starting on Oct. 1.

“We need another person to look after maintenance,” McBride said. “Our facilities have grown, and our grounds have grown, and Mike will help tremendously in that area.”

During the public participation portion of the meeting, council members also heard comments from parent Jessica Hawkins regarding open enrollment policies.

“My son was denied open enrollment for sixth grade, and I clearly wanted an explanation of why,” Hawkins said.

“It does say here that the grade level is full, but I wanted more of an explanation,” Hawkins said.

“The class is full; that’s all there is to it,” McBride said. “It happens all the time.”

“Open enrollment can be denied for multiple reasons, but one of them is that there’s a max to classroom size,” Hildebrand said. “It is a legitimate reason to be turned down for open enrollment, and there is no further requirement.”

“It really doesn’t require any more explanation than that,” she said. “If the numbers are too high, then that is the reason, and there isn’t really anything more to it; I’m very sorry.”

Board members’ next regularly scheduled meeting will be held at 5:15 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 11, in the district’s board of education meeting room.

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