AC-WH Career Center board eyes expansion

AC-WH Career Center board eyes expansion
                        

The Ashland County-West Holmes Career Center Board of Education said a building expansion and providing dollars to match state funding for the project should be a main goal for early 2021. Board President Brian Lefelhoc asked members to tell about any goals they have for the new year as they gave associate school reports during the board’s regular meeting on Dec. 17.

The career center board voted in December 2019 to hire the architectural firm SHP of Columbus for design services after the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission put the school at the top of the list of career technical schools for possible state funding if officials want to make improvements to the 47-year-old building.

Last July the company proposed a preliminary master facility improvement plan that included a satellite building in the West Holmes School District, clustering major programs with outside access, clustering academic programs with more flexible space, easier access to programs with customer-service components, better security, and relocating a number of programs to other classroom areas.

The state tentatively has agreed to fund 51% of any eligible costs. However, progress on finalizing a plan has been slowed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Lefelhoc was the first board member to suggest the building plan as a goal. Hillsdale School District representative Jason Chio agreed, saying the board needs to “nail down” specifics so it can decide whether to “go or not go” with the plan.

Jim Barger, who represents the Tri-County Educational Service Center, agreed the plan needs to be “solidified,” and if the career center board decides to proceed, school officials need to develop a way to present it to the community and get their support. Ashland City and Ashland University representative Rick Ewing said while the building will be a “commanding” planning element in 2021, officials should continue to “push the envelope” to increase enrollment and programs.

Forest Chanay from the Tri-County ESC said the board also should work to improve adult education offerings. “I know things are in progress and working, but I would like to see us get really serious and do some improvements in the adult education department,” he said. “I know we have to do a lot of recovery and rebuilding right now, but now is the time to dream and find something that will negate having to try to revive something that doesn’t want to live.”

Loudonville-Perrysville School District representative David Hunter wants to make sure career center students continue with in-person classes for the rest of the school year. “In the home districts you can teach the kids from far away in subjects like math and history, but when you have labs like you do here, these kids really need to be in school,” he said.

Lefelhoc thanked the staff and administration for working to minimize the possible exposure to COVID-19 and the students for “buying in” to the program. Ewing asked superintendent Rod Cheyney if he has heard anything about administering the COVID-19 vaccine to students.

“I’ve heard very little at this point. Right now they’re focusing on frontline people,” Cheyney said. “I do think at some point there will be an opt-in to possibly have it done in the school districts. If anything, it would be the later part of March.”

Career center principal Rick Brindley reported recruitment efforts for next year’s junior class are going well with 174 applications so far. That compares to 196 at the same time last year and 177 two years ago.

“It’s been a difficult thing, but I think our staff, our counselors and our lab instructors have made an effort to put things together,” Brindley said.

Brindley said officials have put together a three-minute video so potential students and other people who have not visited the school can see all the programs. They’re also emailing and sending postcards to students who have expressed an interest in the career center but who have not submitted applications.

“Compared to one other district I know that is bigger, we’re doing pretty good with the percentage of where we were at the same time last year,” Brindley said. “We’re going to keep the word out and get back at it in January.”

In other business the career center board approved a new administrative and exempt employee salary schedule for the 2020-21 contract year for the principal, assistant principal, adult education director, assistant treasurer, maintenance and technology supervisors, secretary to the superintendent and treasurer, assistant to the treasurer, the marketing and public relations coordinator, and the adult education secretary. The new schedule calls for a 1.5% pay raise for one year, which was the same increase approved last month for teachers.

The board also accepted the resignation of assistant treasurer Lesa Deter, who recently received her treasurer’s certification and has taken a position in another district. It also approved a supplemental food service coordinator contract for Peggy Rixon through June 30.

Treasurer Julie Smith reported as part of her agenda that Lippert Enterprises of Ashland has applied for a 75% enterprise zone tax abatement for 10 years for a new 122,000-square-foot warehouse on Faultless Drive. The project is expected to be completed in September 2021 and create four new jobs and an additional $150,000 in payroll.

The board also honored Lefelhoc for his work as board president the last year and named him president pro tem until a new president is elected at the organizational and regular meeting that was set for Jan. 14 at 6 p.m.


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