AUSTINTOWN District's classrooms open to residents

AUSTINTOWN -- Several Austintown parents are going back to school this week, and they're hoping to learn a little more about their children.
"What I want to see is his interaction in a school environment," said Joanne O'Nora, as she watched her son, Mike Viars, from the rear of a fourth-grade classroom at Lynn Kirk Elementary School. She added that she wants to know if "[Mike] has enough confidence to participate in the curriculum."
Wendy Welsh, whose son Dustin also is in the fourth grade at Lynn Kirk, said Tuesday she hoped to gain "a better understanding of how class is run."
O'Nora and Welsh are among the parents participating in "Come See For Yourself," an event that allows local residents to observe classes in the Austintown schools. The event began Tuesday and continues today and Thursday.
Not just for parents: Superintendent Richard Denamen said all local residents are welcome to observe classes during the event.
"It's for anybody who wants to come in and see what's in the facility that's part of the community," he said. Denamen also stressed that the event has nothing to do with the Austintown school board's campaign for a 3.9-mill, 26-year bond issue.
Classes in different grades are open to observation at different times during Come See for Yourself. Fourth-grade classes at Lynn Kirk were open to observers for 90 minutes Tuesday afternoon.
Nancy Hahlen, the principal at Lynn Kirk, said that about 75 local residents attended. Hahlen said she feels those residents left having learned that children have a hands-on role in their education.
"The basis is still the same; the approach is a little different," she said.
Pupils in Frank Pugliese's fourth-grade class at Lynn Kirk spent time making Ohio state flags with construction paper and glue. The project was part of a unit on citizenship.
Before the pupils began gluing and cutting, Pugliese talked with them about the meaning of the stars, stripes and circles on the flag. Five parents, including O'Nora and Welsh, watched while sitting in chairs along the walls.
Life away from home: Pugliese said he felt the parents learned that their children have a different life when they're in school. That life calls for them to be organized and independent while also cooperating with their fellow pupils, he said.
"This is like their second home," Pugliese said.
Lorie Gessler said her daughter Olivia has fun attending Pugliese's class. Gessler said she came to the class Tuesday afternoon to "see what he's doing to make it so fun."
O'Nora added that she hoped her observation would help her talk with her son about his education.
Involving the community: Denamen said this is the second year for Come See for Yourself. In past years, other events have taken place in an attempt to involve the community in the schools, including an event that had community members teaching class, the superintendent added.
Denamen said those events, however, did not give local residents enough exposure to the schools.
Then, a few years ago, Denamen read an article in a professional journal about an event similar to Come See for Yourself.
"To me, it made a lot of sense," he said. "You're opening it up [to the community], not just to parents."
Parents are informed of the event by fliers they receive from their children. Hahlen said other local residents call ahead in the interest of security.