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Published: Thursday, 8/21/2014

Officials say TPS event at church isn’t religious


Officials of Toledo Public Schools and a local church that will hold a back-to-school luncheon for teachers and other employees next week say the event should not cause concerns about a religious connection to the district celebration.

TPS employees have been invited to the free lunch event from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday at CedarCreek Church’s South Toledo campus, 2150 S. Byrne Rd. The district also held a staff appreciation day there in November.

“This is a function for the staff to come together, and they can come anytime to get a meal,” TPS Chief Academic Officer James Gault said.

The Rev. Andy Fortney, lead pastor at CedarCreek’s South Toledo campus, wrote in an email that the church is “simply allowing [the school district] to use our building to host the event. We have done this for several local organizations or groups over the years at all of our campuses.” The district is bringing the food, grills to prepare it, and paper products, and “doing all the cooking,” Pastor Fortney wrote.

“There’s been no religious tone” at the functions, Mr. Gault said. “Nobody is mandated to go,” so people who would be uncomfortable at a Christian church can stay away.

The luncheon will be at CedarCreek rather than on school property because the facility and the parking lot can accommodate the number of people expected to attend, he said, and “does not interrupt the preparation of school,” which starts Tuesday.

“This is a TPS event and not a CedarCreek event,” Pastor Fortney wrote. “It is a chance for them to show their teachers and staff how much they appreciate them. Last year’s event as well as this year’s is only about TPS and not about CedarCreek,” and providing the meeting space “is a way of showing community support.”

Contact TK Barger @ tkbarger@theblade.com, 419-724-6278 or on Twitter @TK_Barger.

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