By Kalea Hall
When constructing the Austintown district’s new school buildings for grades K-2 and 3-5, the decision-makers had to place themselves in the classroom again.
Colorful walls and floors, floor-to-ceiling windows and lockers to fit to size are just some of the ways the Austintown schools were built to accommodate the children.
The new schools are set to open Sept. 4, and will be functional, despite some community concern of them not being ready, Superintendent Vince Colaluca said.
Both buildings were able to be built after a 2.9-mill levy passed in May 2010, and the Ohio School Facilities Commission gave $23 million to the $50 million project. Much of what was decided in how the buildings are constructed, including how many square feet, is decided by the OSFC, but the district did adjust some areas where allowed.
For example, the OSFC allows a 3,000-square-foot media center, but for each school there are media centers and multiple reading rooms that divide up the area. This is what the teachers wanted: smaller areas with soft furniture for them to read to the children. Tutor-intervention rooms and conference rooms are another addition to the new schools.
“This was a collaboration project,” Colaluca said.
Teacher insight was a big part of making sure the buildings were functional. Advancements in technology are one of the ways the building will be more functionally advanced than the previous elementary schools. Each classroom will be equipped with 70-inch touch-screen televisions.
“We could not have done this in the other buildings,” Colaluca said.
Outside of technology, the largest improvement from the old to the new schools is the ability for the teachers and staff to collaborate. In the past, teachers and staff from all schools met five times a year. Now they will be able to meet weekly.
As far as the appearance of the buildings, red and blue Falcon colors and other bright colors can be seen in the halls and classrooms.
The buildings are very similar to Austintown Middle School, Colaluca said. There will be approximately 23 students in 15 classrooms from kindergarten to first grade, and there will be approximately 25 students in 16 classrooms from second to fifth grade.
“We wanted our buildings to represent our community,” Colaluca added.
The district wanted to focus on investing in what would make the school buildings practical and useful: technology.
“We really looked at making the building look first-class, but not to spend money on the frills we do not need,” Colaluca said.
One of the main concerns when housing approximately 1,150 students in the K-2 building and 1,200 students in the 3-5 building is security. Both buildings have administrative entrances where guests will enter before they are allowed to enter the actual school. A device called the Raptor will scan driver’s licenses to check for criminal history.
Another added area of safety is the new connection at New Road and Idaho Road that opened Monday. The belief is the $750,000 project funded by the school district, the township, grant funds and Mahoning County will alleviate congestion and make the route easier for bus drivers. Bus drivers were forced to use Bexley Drive to get to New Road.
“I don’t think [the bus drivers] realize the magnitude of what this does,” said Colleen Murphy, the district’s director of transportation, adding it will enhance safety and improve pickup and drop-off times for students.