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Many changes hinge on passage of bond

By Ian Hill

Monday, October 29, 2001

The bond issue would allow the school board to sell Austintown Middle School, which was built in 1916.
AUSTINTOWN -- Voters will help decide the fate of Austintown Middle School on Nov. 6, when a 3.9-mill, 26-year school bond issue will appear on the ballot.
The bond issue would permit the school board to borrow about $32 million to pay for construction of a new junior high school and the renovation of Frank Ohl Middle School. The new school and the renovations would then allow the board to sell Austintown Middle School, which was built in 1916 and is in need of repair.
If the bond issue passes, the owner of a $100,000 home in the township would pay an additional $59.72 in property taxes every six months.
Bad shape: Pictures of Austintown Middle School's interior show wiring hanging from ceilings, debris falling from walls, and water leaking from the school's roof. In addition, the board recently had to replace the school's damaged wooden gym floor with a temporary floor.
"These aren't slides that were taken 20 years ago. They're not fictitious; they're for real," schools Superintendent Richard Denamen has said of the pictures.
The new junior high would be built east of the Fitch High School football stadium, near Raccoon Road.
Denamen noted that he feels the outcome of the bond issue vote could reflect on the entire township.
"If you want the value of your community to be maintained, schools are a measuring tool for that," he said. "We feel this plan helps to maintain our education system."
Realignment: Denamen also has said the new school and the renovations would allow the school board to realign the district. A proposed realignment plan calls for all students in grades four through six to attend Frank Ohl, while all seventh- and eighth-graders would attend the new junior high.
The realignment would help teachers prepare students for proficiency tests while also centralizing the school district while equalizing class sizes, Denamen has said. A committee of local residents and school officials created the realignment plan in April 2000.
Approval of the bond issue also would allow the school board to meet some of its responsibilities under the Expedited Local Partnership Program. The program calls for the state to pay 39 percent of the cost of bringing the Austintown schools up to state standards.
The rest of the money would come from local sources, such as the bond issue. Denamen has said the total cost of bringing all Austintown schools up to code could be $70 million. Under the state program, about $42 million would have to come from local sources.
Denamen has said he expects the state money to be available beginning in 2009.