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Colaluca: $50M plan for schools merits OK

Published: Mon, September 28, 2009 @ 12:00 a.m.

By Jon Moffett

The schools chief seeks passage of a bond issue to fund local share of razing five buildings, building two new ones.

AUSTINTOWN — Thousands of current and former students, faculty and staff of Austintown local schools gathered around a bonfire to celebrate unity and pride in the school system.

School administrators hope the fire of school spirit still burns later this fall when a 2.9-mill bond issue will be on the Nov. 3 ballot. The district hopes to fund its $26 million share of a school expansion project through the sale of bonds.

The pep rally last week behind Falcon Stadium celebrated a successful start to the fall sports season for Fitch and its annual athletic Hall of Fame inductions.

But Superintendent Vincent Colaluca took advantage of the gathering and briefly addressed the crowd, reminding them of the major decision looming for township voters.

“If you can give us your support, we’d really appreciate it,” he said before encouraging the students in their athletics.

If approved by voters, the bond issue would help fund the district’s 53 percent share of a $50 million facility-expansion project to build two schools and create a central campus for the district.

The new buildings would be constructed at the sites of Frank Ohl Intermediate and Watson Elementary schools. They would house kindergarten through second grade in one building and third through fifth grade in the other.

The project is part of a $1.4 billion plan approved by the Ohio School Facilities Commission, which will benefit 32 school districts statewide.

The state has allocated and will provide 47 percent of the costs, and the district will be responsible for the remaining 53 percent, more than $26 million, according to OSFC documents.

Those at the rally offered their views.

“I think it’s a golden opportunity,” said Scott Cochran, 39, of Austintown. “We have a new middle school, Fitch High School is in pretty good condition and for them to consolidate down to two new buildings, we’ll have pretty new buildings for every school throughout the school system.”

Cochran said though his children will be too old to attend the new schools, it is still important for township residents to pass the issue.

“It’s great for our community,” he said. “It’ll be a reason people will want to move here, and it will keep our property values up. I think now is the time to do it.”

Theresa Givens, 42, said, “In the past, I haven’t always supported the issues, but I think it’s an offer that [the district] just can’t turn down.”

Others cited the ages and conditions of the current buildings, saying upgrades are needed.

Gus Grivensky, 84, said many of the older buildings would have to be replaced or remodeled soon anyway, and the township should take advantage of the project.

Abby Razapourian, 58, said, “It’s going to be there for years and used by the students. It’s not something you want to pass up.”

Not all township residents are in favor of the project, however.

Many at the rally said they either didn’t know enough about the issue to comment or declined to do so. One said she hopes the issue passes but remains skeptical.

“I think layoffs and job loss will affect how people vote,” said Debbie Magni, 43. “People don’t want to see their taxes increase. I don’t think it will pass. ... I’m all for it, but I don’t think it will pass.”

She added that the district will have “missed the boat” if the levy fails.

Richard Zimmerman, school board president, said if the levy passes, taxes would increase by about $7 per month.

Many of the district’s current buildings have not received significant upgrades since their construction. Woodside (1946), Lynn Kirk (1958), Lloyd (1955) and Watson (1961) Elementary schools and Frank Ohl (1961) would be demolished if the project is completed.



1steelers_fan(23 comments)posted 6 years, 9 months ago

The residents would be foolish to not vote for it. Take advantage of the state funds while they are available.
Boardman needs to tweak the plan they had a few years ago (remove some of the athletic items) and try again. Our school buildings need replaced too.

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2AKAFR1(322 comments)posted 6 years, 9 months ago

I think Colaluca and the teachers of Austintown should step up to the plate and contribute part of their salaries to this great cause.

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3AtownParent(565 comments)posted 6 years, 9 months ago

"Many of the district’s current buildings have not received significant upgrades since their construction."

Because the school system blatantly ignores the maintenance issue on its buildings.

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4commyliberal(94 comments)posted 6 years, 9 months ago

I want to see new school buildings in Austintown. However, I do not support the "campus" model.

1. I don't want to see such a large elementary population in one building. I believe the K-2 building will not be a good environment for 1200 children. Is it an elementary school or an airport?

2. Did anyone notice the size of the playground areas of the proposed building? The play areas are smaller in the proposed building than in any of the existing buildings BUT the population is twice as large in the proposed elementary building than in Watson, the largest existing elementary building. How are 1200 K-2 students going to have recess?

3. Busing. How much more is all the extra busing going to cost this district over time? Students will need to be bused from K-10th grade. Currently with the neighborhood schools at least half of the students at the elementary buildings are walkers. Busing is an operating expense and not covered on the bond levy.

4.Transition plan. The district want to reopen Davis Elementary (capacity 350) and send Watson students to Davis. Davis is too small to hold all of the Watson students ( 450 students), Davis has a bad roof, Davis has been left to rot for two years. It is going to take 4 years to get the new elementary building completed. How much will it cost the district to repair Davis for habitation and bus all the Watson students to Davis? What about the roof, this was the reason given for closing this building. This expense is not covered in the bond levy.

5. Traffic; the traffic congestion at the "campus" is considerable. What is going to happen when an additional 1000 children are added to the campus?

6. Parking; Frank Ohl,(population 700) cannot have an all school event because the parking is not adequate. So where will anyone park when we move 1000 additional students to the campus? maybe those soccer fields wont make the final cut.

Will Austintown support an additional operating levy to pay for all the expenses the bond levy doesn't cover?

Are we purchasing new buildings or a white elephant? Is this the best our community can achieve?

I propose we redo this plan. We can build four K-5 buildings (neighborhood schools) and partner with the YMCA or St. E's and build a community center at the campus. I would like to see a community indoor pool & an indoor soccer field. Why drive to Boardman or Niles to swim in the winter? Why drive to Struthers and/or Cortland for winter soccer?

We can do better for our money! We can bring a greater benefit to more of our citizens.

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5commyliberal(94 comments)posted 6 years, 9 months ago

BTW the district does not lose the money if we don't pass the bond levy in November. Don't take my word for fact, research this yourselves and be informed of the decision you are making for our children and our community.

Case in point: Mineral Ridge turned down their bond levy (they were eligible for OSFC funding as well) last spring and guess what? There is a bond levy on the November ballot.

I want to know what the cost will be to replace our existing buildings and maintain the neighborhood schools. Watson is a candidate for renovation, not just demolition.

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6city_resident(528 comments)posted 6 years, 9 months ago

commyliberal, you're right that if the issue fails this November, the ALSD is still eligible for the OSFC funds. They have a year to get the issue to pass. If, after a year, it hasn't been passed, the district loses the money. If your research tells you otherwise, please let me know.

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7CaringCitizen(2 comments)posted 6 years, 9 months ago

CommyLiberal... it seems as though you have "all the facts". Unfortunately, did you speak to someone to clarify or validate your "facts"? To clear up a few...1]The central elementary is different than what you are used to. It doesn't mean it is wrong! Several school districts have one. When there is change people fight it because it is out of their comfort zone. "Change has a considerable psychological impact on the human mind. To the fearful it is threatening because it means that things may get worse. To the hopeful it is encouraging because things may get better. To the confident it is inspiring because the challenge exists to make things better."-- King Whitney Jr. Why do people have to complain when things change? Why can't they embrace it?
2]The proposed model is just that... a model or general representation. It is created to give the voters an idea of the location and setup of the buildings. No one EVER said that is the exact style/design, playground, or parking arrangement.
3]Although "YOUR PLAN" may be an alternative idea, the state is not supplying almost half of the funds for "YOUR PLAN".
4]Although the monies offered to the Austintown district may not necessarily be revoked at the end of November if there is an unfortunate failure, there is no guarantee that the offer will come around again from the OSFC. Thus the phrase, "Our time is now!" Besides...“Never put off till tomorrow what you can do today.”--Thomas Jefferson
New schools will not only benefit the students going there... it will aid the entire community!

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8TabSinger2(4 comments)posted 6 years, 9 months ago

There are some benefits with the OSFC monies that would not exist by choosing to renovate the schools individually.
*First of all, the money is earmarked and cannot be used for anything other than what is specified in the deal. Not one cent can be used towards AMS or Fitch, for any reason.
*Included in the bond issue, is a 1/2mill that is required by the deal, specifically for upkeep.
*The district saves $500,000 in maintenance a year by using one campus.
*Also included in the deal, will be the money needed to destruct all 5 buildings.
*When completed, the district then has an opportunity to decide how to best use the properties where the schools were, or sell them.

The schools will have to be built or renovated, period.
The cost can be paid 100% by the taxpayers, OR, we can accept a "BOGO" deal from OSFC. We pay for one new building and they buy the other.

As far as renovating each one individually, the cost would be close to the bond amount, but we would foot the ENTIRE bill. Also, that would not save the $500,000 a year, and it would not include upkeep. It would also eliminate the opportunity to sell the properties, banking the monies gained and using them down the road when Fitch is in need of renovations.

We have to think outside the box on this one. Get ALL the facts before you cast your vote. This effects the future of this township, thousands of families and hundreds of employees of the district. No matter how bad the economy is, it's hard to go wrong when you invest in schools.

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9commyliberal(94 comments)posted 6 years, 9 months ago

To "caringcitizen",

I never stated the 1200 student elementary building was "wrong". I stated that I was not confident this would be a good learning environment for children in K-2. I have asked this question before and I will ask it again, what other school district has an elementary building with a population of 1200 K-2? I would like to see the performance statistics on this building and even visit it. I am willing to do my homework but I am NOT willing to be spoon fed fantasy by a select few in this town who want this CAMPUS.

As for the size of the playgrounds, have you ever seen a playground built by the OSFC? I have and they are UNDERSIZED for the population of the buildings.

The reason the district is using a model IMHO, is to give everyone a "pretty picture" without giving any details. Details like

1. How big are the playgrounds?
2. Where is everyone supposed to park?
3. How are they going to feed 1200 kids K-2 lunch everyday? When will lunch begin and end?

I am a detail person and I can see this "plan"" has a lot of holes. Is it wrong to be concerned with something that doesn't even make sense on paper?

For me it is not about money, it is about the real situation our children will be facing every school day if we move forward on this "plan". I am NOT feeling like this is a good idea.

I am planning on waiting out this hair-brained slapdash "campus" scheme and the less than stellar leaders of this "plan". My bet is between the economy and the stupid shuffling of elementary children all over the district for 4 years will kill this mess.

I plan on voting for new members to the school board. Our current members are out of touch.

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10AtownParent(565 comments)posted 6 years, 9 months ago

The people who scream for change when it comes to the buildings are the ones who don't want the change when it comes to members of the school board or having to make cuts in teaching staff. You can't embrace change when it suits you.

I am with you commy. There are 2 BOE members who are not running and the third was in charge of all this mess this year. I am voting for 3 new people to make a change on the board. Then in 2 years it is time to put the doctor out the door!!

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11CaringCitizen(2 comments)posted 6 years, 9 months ago

Parent and Commy, you are absolutely correct to make changes in your board if you are not satisfied with their choices/decisions. That is your right and responsibility! Just don't make the kids suffer.

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12AtownParent(565 comments)posted 6 years, 8 months ago

Caring, don't try and put this on the kids. The BOE stopped caring about our kids a long time ago. If the did, then we would not have open enrollment, Math Investigations, Heuer or Colaluca.

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