YOUNGSTOWN Plan for school receives praise

Harding pupils will be at the Jefferson school building during construction.
YOUNGSTOWN -- Reaction to plans for the new Harding Elementary School was uniformly positive among those who attended a forum at which the design was presented to the public.
Architect Ray Jaminet of Olsavsky-Jaminet Architects of Youngstown gave a presentation showing the building's exterior appearance and floor plans. The session was sponsored by the North Side Citizens' Coalition and attended by several dozen people Wednesday in The Rayen School auditorium.
Praise: "I like the design a lot. It's bigger than what the school is now. It's going to be more efficient," said Vivvian Stewart, who attended the forum with her three children, Edward, a kindergartner; Shanell, a second-grader; and Vishayla, a third-grader, all Harding School pupils.
Stewart, a PTA member, said she was glad to see that the new school will include a parent room, where PTA meetings can be conducted.
"I like it because it's big. Where you go in, I like the driveway," Shanell said, referring to the off-street entrance that will allow school buses to bring children directly to the main entrance.
"I like the playground. I like the big school," Edward said.
"I like all of the parts because it's beautiful," Vishayla said.
"It gives our kids a building that they can be proud of with an atmosphere that's conducive to learning, and that's what's important. It's going to have computers everywhere, and it'll be a modern school," said Councilman Richard Atkinson, R-3rd.
Name: Although the $7.8 million building, designed for 485 pupils in kindergarten through fourth grade, was referred to as North Side Elementary School during the presentation, Superintendent Benjamin McGee said it should be referred to as the new Harding Elementary School.
The school will be part of a $173 million project in which six new schools will be built and 10 others will undergo major renovations.
Demolition of the 1921-vintage, 24,000-square-foot Harding school will begin in mid-June, with groundbreaking for the new building to occur on the same site late this summer and the new building opening late in 2003, Jaminet said.
During construction, Harding pupils will be relocated to the Jefferson school building on Virginia Avenue, which the school board will lease from an Akron-based church that owns it, McGee said. The school is in the city's Brier Hill section.
The board sold Jefferson, which opened in 1911, to the church several years ago. "The Jefferson School will have the same computer wiring and the same kind of infrastructure that [the new] Harding has," McGee added.
Plans: The new air-conditioned, 59,000-square-foot Harding building on Cordova Avenue will have a slanted roof and feature a fully enclosed central courtyard, allowing exterior light to reach all classrooms. Each classroom will have six computer locations, including one on the teacher's desk. A 25-seat computer lab will be adjacent to the media center.
The cafeteria will double as an auditorium, and there will be a separate pickup and drop-off area for kindergarten pupils. The new facility will feature an art room, music room and gym.
"I'm impressed by it because it's an interesting design. It appears to me to be rather well thought out. It's an attractive improvement," said Walter Mayhall, interim coalition director.
"It's certainly a large improvement over the current situation. I like the fact that it's set further off the street, and they have designed it so it fits a little better into the neighborhood," said Anthony Farris, a North Side resident and assistant city prosecutor.

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