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USA looks forward to making its move

SALINEVILLE — The Utica Shale Academy is making preparations to possibly move out of its current location at Southern Local High School and into a building in Salineville recently donated to Southern by Williams Energy.

USA Superintendent Bill Watson said while nothing is definite yet, it is an exciting option. There have been architects inside the Kenneth Hutson Building on East Main Street and it has now been approved for a capacity of 220 students, which will provide enough space for the technical programs and career-based intervention programs offered through the USA, as well as space for growth.

Watson said the architects have completed drawings and the building could be ready for them as early as June or July. The elevator is operable and the fire suppression system is up to date.

Additionally, Watson said being in Salineville at a location near the park will give students a chance to earn credit, possibly a community seal, for giving back to the community.

Lori Woods, who attends the meetings as a sponsor of the USA through the Ohio Department of Education, said Tuesday she got a chance to see the new building and she was looking forward to everything that was happening there. In the future she will be helping them look at options for local seals that students can use to help them qualify for graduation.

As of Tuesday, 33 seniors are on track to graduate from the USA with enough credits as long as they continue to follow through to the end of the school year. Watson asked the board to approve up to $11,545 total in wellness stipends to be split between two staff members who will contact the students and lend them support through graduation.

Watson said they did this last year and 20 out of 20 senior students graduated, despite everything being changed in their lives due to Covid-19.

“The juniors last year, seniors this year, they’ve experienced a school year like no other,” Watson said, adding that the wellness initiative is just to make certain everyone has a positive mindset and does not need any assistance to push them to graduate.

In other matters:

— Watson noted that students practicing with the virtual welder at the USA school, who are then going down to the New Castle School of Trades to use the actual welders are seeing great improvement in their skills. He would like look at purchasing another used virtual welder so more students can utilize the equipment, which gives them immediate feedback and suggestions for improvement. He is seeking an federal equity grant to help pay for the equipment, which costs $40,000.

— Watson also reported he is preparing to write a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) grant, which will assist students leaving the USA with filling out the FAFSA so they can be considered for financial help to attend higher education programs after graduating.

— USA continues to grow financially. The carryover balance as of June 30, 2020 was $98,998, but this year it is projected the school will have a carryover balance of $244,000. Board members discussed that it is believed the school having more of a brick and mortar footprint, as well as an increase in career tech offerings have contributed to the enrollment and the school’s finances.

djohnson@mojonews.com

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