By MAYSOON ABDELRASUL
TRUMBULL VINDICATOR STAFF
WARREN — Grandparents, parents, schoolchildren and other community members — about 25 in all — think west side residents are getting the short end of the stick on new school construction sites.
They gathered outside the Warren schools administration building Monday to protest and let school officials know they are upset that schools are currently being built only on the east side of Warren.
The Rev. Ronald Fowlis, president of the Warren-Trumbull chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, said people are protesting for the simple reason that the Warren Board of Education has not kept their promise to build on the west side of town.
“It is not a racial thing,” he said. “They did not include the entire city in the construction.”
Ed Bolino, president of the Warren Board of Education, said he did not know about the protesters shouting, “Keep it fair, give us our share,” but he said he wants to hear what the community thinks is best.
“We welcome any input from the community on this project,” Bolino said.
The Ohio School Facilities Commission’s re-evaluation of the Warren City School District called for a reduction in the size of future buildings.
The re-evaluation was completed by DeJONG Inc., a Dublin, Ohio-based firm. It projected 1,660 fewer students in grades pre-kindergarten through 12 by the 2016-17 school year. Student enrollment at the end of the last academic year was 5,751.
The Rev. Mr. Fowlis said the OSFC options will not work for the west side of Warren.
“Everything will be scaled back on this [west] side of town,” he said.
Councilwoman Helen Rucker, D-at large, said she supports the community’s concern as she walked with the protesters. She said the west side has always voted for school levies.
In November 2003, district voters approved borrowing $40.7 million through the sale of bonds to finance the district’s share of a $153 million school construction project.
“We are just concerned,” she said. “We want the board to be forthright and answer our questions.”
Parent Maria Williams said schools are being built on the east side but the west side is being ignored. “We pay taxes just like everyone else,” she said.
Black community is affected
The west side has a predominantly black population, and Thomas Conley, president of the Greater Warren-Youngstown Urban league, said it appears to be unfair that no schools are being built in that area.
He said he knows there has to be a downsizing because population is decreasing and the “black community is affected the most.”
The school board will have a public work session to discuss the impact of the readjusted enrollment at 6 p.m. July 17 at Packard Shelter House on Mahoning Avenue.
After the meeting, Mr. Fowlis said, everyone should know exactly what will happen and then take the proper action from there.
“We are trying to make sure that we on the west side get a fair and quality education like the east side,” he said.
Mr. Fowlis said this discussion began three years ago, and community members were worried that the west side would be neglected.
“The board did not pay attention to us,” he said.
He said if the board had listened then, there would be no protest now.