Board OKs $568K to renovate Rayen as school

By Denise Dick



The William Rayen and Irene L. Ward Building will be renovated into a school for students identified as at-risk because of academic or behavioral issues.

The school board, by a 5-2 vote this week, approved a resolution for the renovation, which is estimated at $568,725. The work will be on the Rayen portion of the building, which originally was a school building and then converted into offices.

Board members Michael Murphy and Lock Beachum Sr. voted against the resolution.

“My only objection is that I’m concerned about cost overruns,” Murphy said.

Beachum said he also worries about the price tag and believes a new superintendent, once selected, should have a say in the program’s location.

Board members Richard Atkinson, Anthony Catale, June Drennen, Rachel Hanni and Andrea Mahone voted for the renovation.

While the Rayen building is being renovated — which is expected to take about six months — the students will be housed in the former Hayes Middle School on Ford Avenue on the city’s North Side. Harry Evans, district facilities manager, said the estimated cost to operate that building for six months is $331,000.

Catale said the program is a partnership with Youngstown State University and expands on the Odyssey: School of Possibilities, which housed students in third through 12th grades with academic or behavioral issues. Odyssey was housed at P. Ross Berry Middle School, on Bryn Mawr Avenue.

The expanded program will accommodate students in kindergarten through 12th grade, the board president said. It’s expected to house about 300 students, absorbing those who attended Odyssey.

There was some discussion during the caucus before the regular board meeting of keeping the program at Hayes through this school year, but it was decided that wasn’t a good idea.

“Hayes is not a very nice building,” Drennen said. “One of the points that [Superintendent] Dr. [Wendy] Webb made is that the kids would be excited” about a renovated building.

The Rayen-Ward building is also closer to YSU and to the city’s cultural activities, she said.

“I think these kids deserve to be somewhere that’s nice,” Atkinson said. “With the university and the culture and the children’s museum, this is the type of atmosphere these kids need.”

The Irene Ward portion of the building will continue to house the city school district’s administrative offices.

At the same meeting, board members voted to “permanently loan” the Rayen School mural to the Mahoning Valley Historical Society. The mural, painted in 1958, was given to the school by that year’s graduating class. It was removed in January 2007 as the building was to be razed.

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