State meets with Austintown Board for new school plans
By kalea hall
Representatives from the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission said the project to build a new Austintown Fitch High School is one of the largest for the commission.
Details about the future plans for a new high school were discussed Wednesday afternoon by the representatives and board members.
“My feeling is, it is great for the community that the state is partnering with us,” said Vincent Colaluca, superintendent of Austintown schools.
The Ohio School Facilities Commission, which was consolidated along with the former state architect’s office into the OFCC, announced over the summer Austintown’s award of a 47 percent cost coverage for the estimated $68 million project. A 21st-century, 285,000-square-foot building will replace Fitch High, which opened in the late 1960s.
Colaluca said the current building has limited instructional space and prevents the district from adding needed technology advancements.
“We need a 21st-century building for 21st-century learning,” Colaluca said.
In order to use the state funds, the district has to pass a bond issue that most likely will be on May’s ballot. The amount of the bond issue is not yet certain.
The school board agreed to hire the architectural firm of Olsavsky Jaminet, at the cost of $24,195 for preliminary design on components of the project that are not covered by the OFCC. Colaluca said the district is looking to refurbish two gymnasiums in the high school and the auditorium. Under the OSFC funding guidelines, construction of an auditorium is not included unless it is considered a “cafeteria/auditorium.” This would be considered a locally funded initiative, which might be added to the bond issue for a new high school. If not, it will be a separate bond issue.
Steve Roka, project manager for OFCC, said if the issue does not pass within the 13-month time frame it will go into a lapse status, which means the district no longer will be offered the funds until the local share is raised first. The share will not change, but the dollar amount could change with inflation.
“Our fear with that is that there are so many things going well in the Valley, inflation may increase,” Colaluca said.
Roka explained that when the commission believes the cost to revamp the school is two-thirds the cost to replace the school, then it is in the district’s best interest to build new. The cost to renovate Fitch is 70 percent of the cost to build a new high school.
Another issue with renovating is there is no “swing space” to put the students.
“Obviously, you are on the cutting edge of what we are doing here, so we hope you are successful,” Roka said.
Colaluca said the plan is to build a new high school in a wooded area that the board purchased next to the existing schools, to remain a campus.
“We will keep the Fitch traditions going,” Roka said.