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Firestone, Litchfield construction bids OK’d

4/17/2014 - West Side Leader
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By Becky Tompkins

Foundation work is in progress on the new Firestone/Litchfield Community Learning Center (CLC), on the site of the former Litchfield Middle School building, and activity there will increase now that the weather has improved and the Akron Public Schools (APS) Board of Education has approved most of the funding for the rest of the building.

At the April 14 board meeting, board members approved awarding construction contracts to the lowest responsible and responsive bidders for site work, general trades/masonry, plumbing, mechanical/heating, ventilation and air conditioning/geothermal, fire protection and electrical/fire alarm/technology.

Total cost for the contracts is $61.8 million, according to district officials. Fifty-nine percent of the cost is coming from the state, with the other 41 percent from a 0.25 percent addition to Akron’s city income tax approved by voters in 2003.

APS Director of Facility Planning Paul Flesher said construction is in the initial foundation stage now, and that should be completed by mid-May. Then begins all of the work approved at the board meeting, with the natatorium renovation to be done last, he said.

The $61.8 million approved should cover the remainder of the construction, he said, except for furniture and demolition of the old Firestone building after the new one is complete. The target date to move into the new CLC is fall 2015, he said.

In other business, Treasurer Jack Pierson presented some preliminary data he is compiling in preparation for making a five-year financial forecast, which is required by the state twice a year. The next one is due May 31.

A key unknown is the amount of state aid, he said. If the state funding formula stays the same, the district’s revenue could increase by 1 percent to 1.5 percent, he estimated. Another big unknown is enrollment, which fluctuates sometimes widely. Pierson said the district has lost 900 students since last fall. The “option out” category includes students who leave to go elsewhere on open enrollment or with a voucher, or go to a charter school or other specialized school. Pierson said 300 of the students “have just left” this school year, with no record of enrolling in another school.

The Ohio Department of Education is instituting “a whole new system of attendance” next year, said Superintendent David James. He said the district was considering using truant officers, something it has done in the past.

“Enrollment is our biggest variable,” Pierson said, adding he is uncomfortable projecting when it fluctuates so much. When the district loses students, it gets a higher valuation per pupil from the state, though, which provides some good news, he said.

He will present a finalized five-year forecast to the board to vote on in May, he said.

The schedule has been announced for the new “blizzard bags” with which students will be able to make up instruction missed on snow days this school year.

The homework is to be done online, either at the student’s home, at a library or on school computers before or after school or during noninstructional times like study hall or lunchtime.

The APS sent out a press release explaining the high school assignments were posted April 14 and are to be completed and turned in by May 2. The middle school lessons will be posted April 25 and must be turned in by May 16. Elementary students will receive their assignments May 9, to be turned in by May 28. Students who do not turn in the work on time will be marked absent for that day, as required by a new state law, according to district officials.

The students are receiving or will receive training at school, the press release stated.

The schedule for the grade levels is staggered so the system does not become overloaded with all students trying to do the work at one time, said Assistant Superintendent Ellen McWilliams. There are student help lines posted on the APS website (www.akronschools.com). More information may be found there and on the district’s Facebook page.

APS officials previously praised and thanked David Dyer, a custodian at Litchfield Middle School, for coming to the assistance of Litchfield student Danielle Johnson as she was choking on some food at lunch March 12. According to a letter from Debra Foulk, APS director of business affairs, Dyer helped dislodge the food from Johnson’s throat.

The board will meet April 28 at 5:30 p.m. at the Sylvester Small Administration Building, 70 N. Broadway St.

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