Discovery program ignites interest in Youngstown schools

By Denise Dick


More than 360 students have applied to attend the city school district’s Discovery program next fall.

Applications for all of the district’s specialty programs will be accepted until the first semester of the next school year.

“I am very pleased with the number of applications we have received to date,” said Superintendent Connie Hathorn. “The Discovery Program is nearly full at some grade levels. Once a grade level at Discovery is filled to capacity, we will put applicants on a waiting list.”

Under the district’s latest revitalization plan, Volney and P. Ross Berry middle schools will close next year, Wilson Middle School will become the district’s alternative school, six of the elementary schools will become kindergarten-through-sixth-grade buildings, and Kirkmere, now a kindergarten-through-fifth-grade school, will house a Discovery program for third- through eighth-graders.

Students who attend Discovery will focus on six areas: Spanish, engineering/math, visual arts, performing arts, creative communications and investigative science as well as core subjects.

The changes are part of a plan to reduce costs, offer more student choice and improve academics. Most school buildings have far fewer students than their capacity.

Kirkmere’s student capacity is 500, for example, but its enrollment is only 282. Hathorn hopes to boost enrollment to 482 with the change.

As of this week, 364 students had applied to attend the Discovery program.

Choffin Career and Technical Center, which will be an all-day rather than a half-day program next year, generated 453 applications; 115 students applied to attend Rayen Early College Middle School; 185 have applied to Chaney’s Visual and Performing Arts program; 105 applied to Chaney’s Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics program; and 94 applied to Youngstown Early College.

Because Choffin will become an all-day program next year, even students who already attend had to apply.

Richard Atkinson, school board president, believes the number of applicants is a step in the right direction. The fact that Youngstown Early College was recognized this week by the Ohio Department of Education as a School of Honor for sustaining high academic achievement while serving a significant number of economically disadvantaged students will also attract more students.

“It should be a great boost for us,” he said. “I think the things that we’ve been working on since the [Youngstown Schools] Academic Commission has been here are starting to pan out and I think it’s going to bring back more students who have left.” Chaney, formerly a traditional high school, changed to a VPA/STEM school for sixth- through 12th-graders two years ago.

Hathorn said those programs continue to draw more students.

“Our Chaney specialty programs are showing steady growth in student enrollment,” he said. “These programs are earning state and national recognition, our students are performing well academically and students are successfully competing at local, regional and state competitions.”

Applications for all of the district’s specialty programs are available online at, at any YCS school or in the student services office at 20 W. Wood St. Parents can also call 330-740-8776 to have an application mailed to their home.

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