By Denise Dick
City school board members gave their blessing to a restructuring plan that will close three buildings and reconfigure and re-purpose others.
The board voted 5-1 Tuesday to approve Superintendent Connie Hathorn’s plan he says will provide more student choice, improve academics and reduce costs.
Andrea Mahone voted against the resolution, and Rachel Hanni was absent.
President Richard Atkinson and members Marcia Haire-Ellis, Lock P. Beachum Sr., Michael Murphy and Brenda Kimble voted for the plan.
Haire-Ellis said she decided to support Hathorn’s plan after the superintendent told her the plan’s academic goal is to improve the district to “effective” on the state report card and to increase enrollment.
The Youngstown Schools Academic Distress Commission adopted Hathorn’s plan last week, making it part of the district’s academic-recovery plan.
Mahone said she’s concerned about closing school buildings, which will make them available for charter-school use.
Both P. Ross Berry and Volney Rogers middle schools and University Project Learning Center will close next year. Berry is a school for eighth-graders, while sixth- and seventh-graders attend Volney. UPLC, the district’s alternative school, is in the former Mary Haddow School.
Wilson, also a sixth- and seventh-grade school, will become the district’s new alternative school.
Kirkmere Elementary would house a “Discovery program,” or choice school, for third- through eighth- graders, offering specialty courses in Spanish, engineering/math, visual arts, performing arts, investigative science and creative communications.
Third- through fifth-graders will explore all the speciality areas, while sixth- through eighth-graders may choose an area of focus.
The remaining six elementary schools that house students in pre-kindergarten through fifth grade — Paul C. Bunn, Harding, Martin Luther King, William Holmes McGuffey, Taft and Williamson — will become pre-kindergarten through sixth-grade schools.
Chaney High School would remain a visual and performing arts and Science, Technology, Engineering and Math school for sixth- through 12th-graders. But both Chaney and East High School will offer a Career-College Prep Program for seventh- and eighth-graders.
Those programs will be self-contained within the buildings with younger students separated from the high schoolers.
Choffin Career and Technical Center would remain a career and technical school for juniors and seniors but become an all-day program rather than having students spend part of the school day at either East or Chaney.
Mahone said she’s concerned about the seventh- and eighth-graders being housed in the high schools and the risks that poses to the younger children.
Although Hathorn said the younger students will be kept separate from the older ones, she questions whether that can be done.
“I’m scared,” Mahone said. “I don’t know how to support it.”
Two years ago, eighth- and ninth-graders were housed at P. Ross Berry under Hathorn’s first restructuring plan, and Mahone said that didn’t work.
This school year, students who were in ninth grade for a second year or beyond were housed at Choffin in what the district dubbed the ninth-grade academy.
“It changed the whole atmosphere of Choffin,” Mahone said. The school saw more discipline problems, she added.
“The things we’ve been behind him [Hathorn] on haven’t worked,” Mahone said.