The superintendent was present to answer any questions on the bond issue.
By Jon Moffett
AUSTINTOWN — If Vincent Colaluca and the Austintown school board haven’t answered questions about the upcoming bond issue, it hasn’t been for a lack of trying.
Colaluca stood patiently behind a table at a special town-hall meeting to answer any questions and discuss community input on the bond issue Monday evening at the Tabernacle Evangelical Presbyterian Church on Raccoon Road. In front of him was the conceptual model for the new buildings and not much else.
Only a handful of people attended the meeting, which was designed to explain a 2.9-mill bond issue that will be placed on the ballot next month. If passed, the money collected would fund the local 53 percent share, or roughly $26 million, of a $50 million expansion project. The state would fund the remaining 47 percent.
Those who did attend were satisfied with the answers they received.
“I’m just trying to get as much information as I can so come Election Day I’ll be able to make a better, informed decision,” said Rich Klena, 37, who has a child enrolled in Frank Ohl Intermediate School and another who will begin kindergarten at Watson Elementary School next fall. “The specific questions that I had have been answered.”
Klena also observed the model for the proposed campus-style layout the district would use if the bond issue passes.
The district is made up of several small “feeder” elementary schools. Those schools would be consolidated into two new facilities: a kindergarten-through-grade two building and another to house grades three to five. The new buildings would be constructed on the current sites of Watson and Frank Ohl.
“I love it,” Klena said of the layout. “Austintown Middle School is really nice and state-of-the-art. The whole campus idea is very appealing and hopefully it will become a reality. It would be an asset to the community, certainly.”
Anne Booth, 45, of Youngstown, has three children enrolled in the district through its open-enrollment policy. Though she cannot vote on the issue, she wholeheartedly supports it.
“I think it would mean everything to the district,” she said. “Our children are our future, not to sound like Whitney Houston. You have to put the time, money and resources into them because they’re going to be our future leaders. We just need to put the effort into it.”
Colaluca was not discouraged about the lackluster turnout and joked that it must mean there are few issues with the project.
One issue brought up during past discussions was a lack of parking. Complaints have been made that there is not adequate parking currently, and the new model, which features three soccer and two softball fields in the center of the layout, would decrease it further.
But Colaluca said all issues can be solved collectively with the community.
“I’ve heard people bring up parking, the playgrounds aren’t big enough, but it’s just a conceptual model,” he said. “The softball and soccer fields can be more parking or be more playgrounds. ... What the community needs to know is that when this bond issue passes, they will have the opportunity to voice their concerns and give their input on what these buildings will look like.”