Saturday, February 13, 2010
By SEAN BARRON
The board of education has passed a resolution to place a 2.9-mill bond issue on the May 4 primary election ballot for construction of two new elementary schools.
The board, as well as several groups and organizations, spoke during Monday’s board meeting in support of the issue, which failed in the November general election. The measure would raise most of the estimated $50 million to build the new schools, which would replace five older ones in various states of disrepair.
The main speaker Monday night was Lori Gavalier, chairwoman of a campaign to raise awareness and support of the measure.
Gavalier noted that the issue would bring in about 53 percent of the cost. The state would pay the remaining 47 percent — about $23 million — from tobacco lawsuit settlements.
The plan being considered is unifying the two facilities as one central campus on property near Watson Elementary and Frank Ohl Intermediate schools, according to a school memo. The two schools would house students in kindergarten through grade two and grades three to five, respectively.
After the bond measure’s defeat last fall, the committee sought the community’s input about what could be done differently, partly by forming discussion groups with school personnel and residents, Gavalier said. In addition, she said, surveys were mailed to every household in the district to gauge why it failed and what needed to be changed.
“We went back to the beginning,” she said, adding that the committee gave the board formal reports based on information gathered.
A facilities and leadership group of roughly 60 people came up with modifications to the original plan for the schools based on the input, such as designing classrooms most appropriate to students’ age and grade, Gavalier said.
Other advantages to having the two new buildings include consolidating operating costs, improving student/teacher ratios, providing better indoor air quality and using more energy- efficient construction materials, several board members noted.
The issue’s failure likely would mean the district wouldn’t be eligible for the same amount of state funds, if any, Gavalier warned. Also, the district might have to renovate the older buildings, which would be costlier in the long run, she said.
Others voicing support for the bond issue were members of the local parent-teacher organization, the Austintown Education Association and Trustee David Ditzler.
The issue would cost the owner of a $100,000 home an additional $7.40 per month in property tax.
Also at the session, the board approved several resignations, including Marsha O’Hara, a secretary at Austintown Middle School who served 25 years; Mary Jane Miller, secretary at Fitch High School after 26 years; and Cynthia Perry, a counselor at Austintown Middle who served 36 years.