Fitch grant contingent on local share; Bristol, Mathews also funded

Staff report


The Austintown, Mathews and Bristol school districts have been awarded millions in state dollars to help build new schools.

On Thursday, state Reps. Robert Hagan of Youngstown, D-58th, and Ronald Gerberry of Austintown, D-59th, announced the Austintown Local School District was approved to receive $32 million from the Ohio School Facilities Commission.

The $32 million will go toward a $68 million project to construct a new Fitch High School and additional space for Austintown Middle School. In order to receive the state funds, Austintown schools must come up with the additional funding needed to cover the $68 million project within 13 months by asking voters to pass a bond issue.

“It is just a great opportunity for Austintown Local Schools, and I am very happy that they were one of the schools to be funded,” said Gerberry, a 1971 graduate of Fitch High School.

Building a new high school to replace Fitch High School, which opened in 1968, is a part of the master plan to reconstruct the district. Two new elementary schools are to open this fall.

The funding to build those schools partially came from the state. In 2009, the Austintown district received $23 million to build the schools. To go forth with construction, the district passed a bond issue to receive the additional funds for the $50 million project; the bond issue failed to pass in the November 2009 general election but passed in May 2010, according to The Vindicator archives.

The district will have to ask residents once again for the additional funding needed to build a new high school and addition at the middle school.

“Now, as long as they are able to find the funds, every school in our district will be a brand new school that these students will be attending and they already get a top-notch education,” said Jim Davis, Austintown Township trustee.

Supervisor of Facilities and Operations for Austintown schools Mal Culp said a new high school would have a better energy program, better security and better interior health.

“It creates a much healthier environment for the students,” Culp said.

The Austintown superintendent and board of education president could not be reached to comment.

“Austintown is one of the fastest growing communities in the state and it has a wide array of individuals who believe in paying for their property and I think it is important to give them an opportunity to expand their educational facilities,” Rep. Hagan said.

In addition to the Austintown Local School District, the commission also approved more than $5.6 million in state funding for school construction in the Mathews Local School District and $8.8 million for Bristol.

The funding for Mathews, combined with $24 million from the district, will allow the district to move forward with construction of a kindergarten through 12th grade building.

The funding for Bristol is part of a $13.9 million school project. That district wants to renovate and expand its existing K-12 school building.

Mathews Superintendent Lew Lowery said that following an inspection of district facilities, OSFC recognized the need for upgraded facilities.

“Our district was identified as the second-most needy in the state due to the condition of our current buildings,” Lowery said in a news release. “I am confident the Mathews school community will also recognize the need and will support our efforts to bring 21st-century education to the Mathews schools.”

Mathews was one of 19 school districts to receive the offer of OSFC funds. The commission oversees the state’s school facility renovation and construction program.

“This is a critical step in ensuring that the children in the Mathews district are in facilities that help support academic achievement,” OSFC Executive Director Richard Hickman said in a news release. “There is also a significant economic impact attached to [Thursday’s] commission action — the construction work generated by this project could translate into both job opportunities for local residents and increased purchases of goods and services from local businesses.”

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