By Ed Runyan
The administration and school board of Howland schools are investigating the possibility of switching their vocational students from the Ashtabula County Technical & Career Campus in Jefferson to the Trumbull Career & Technical Center in Champion.
John Sheets, Howland superintendent, said switching to TCTC would provide a large number of logistical and job-related benefits for students but would cost Howland residents extra money on their property taxes — about $84 per year for a $100,000 home.
The school board discussed some ideas with the public at a meeting at the high school in March that it believes are important to strengthening education at Howland. Switching from A-Tech to TCTC is one of those ideas, Sheets said.
Among the chief reasons for considering the move is that the distance from Howland to A-Tech is 38 miles, or about 41 minutes of driving time, compared with eight miles to TCTC, or about 12 minutes.
The distance to Jefferson leads to several other issues, Sheets said, such as making it hard for vocational students to participate in extracurricular activities back home and making it hard for them to make connections with employers and job-training activities back home.
Vocational school programs, which all public schools in Ohio are required to offer, are for junior and senior students.
“I see our kids going to Jefferson as a barrier. It puts them behind. In the seven years I’ve been here, we’ve been talking about it,” Sheets said of switching to TCTC. He believes the distance to Jefferson is keeping down the number of Howland students entering those programs.
“I believe it’s more important than ever to provide career education and career development for our students,” Sheets said, pointing to job opportunities opening up in the Mahoning Valley because of the emerging shale-gas industry.
Under the school district’s current agreement with A-Tech, which expires July 1, 2017, Howland pays an annual fee to send students to A-Tech. Last year, the cost was $402,000. For the previous year, it was $455,000. It was $599,000 the year before that.
One reason the cost is dropping is that A-Tech offers some vocational programs at Howland High School, but the number of them has dropped in recent years from five to two.
The district has 92 students attending A-Tech classes altogether, with about 25 of them attending the campus in Jefferson and the remainder taking the classes at Howland High School.
A dozen or so students from Howland are using open enrollment to attend another school district and attend TCTC, Sheets said.
As for the cost, taxpayers in every school district with students at TCTC are charged about 2.4 mills of taxation, so if Howland switched to TCTC, Howland residents would begin to pay that millage.
That would eliminate the $402,000 cost the school district pays to A-Tech and possibly increase state funding if students return to Howland from other school districts, Sheets said.
The district has experienced a $2 million drop in funding in the past two years, which is why the school board is expected to approve a resolution next week asking voters for a tax increase, Sheets said.
“We think that [the levy] is going to strengthen education for up-to-date technology, text books and to provide some security items to make our schools safer,” Sheets said.