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USA plans to expand course offerings

SALINEVILLE — Nearing completion of its move into Salineville, the Utica Shale Academy is making more plans to expand both its physical presence and course offerings.

During Tuesday’s board meeting, the Utica Shale Academy board approved the purchase agreement of about three acres of property near the current school location, but just down the street at 65 E. Main St.

Superintendent Bill Watson said the USA is in the process of acquiring the property for $35,000 and is looking to place a garage facility on it to house some large equipment for a new program. The Kubota Tech program would give students a chance to learn diesel mechanics skills. They also would learn how to operate heavy equipment safely and efficiently, giving them more skills they can use in the workforce.

Watson said he even hopes to work through the Ohio State University ATI, which is the only other program in the state of Ohio, with the possibility of Shale graduates entering that program with credits.

Watson said work has already begun pouring the concrete pads for the facility and the Shale Academy has the first three pieces of equipment students will begin learning to work on in the program in year one – a side by side, a zero-turn mower and a loader backhoe tractor. In year two, students would then move on to a skid steer and a mini excavator.

In the future, Watson said there is a possibility of the program obtaining another 12 acres nearby to continue to expand the program.

Watson also told the board about the hospitality program, where students will be learning skills through a partnership with the Mahoning and Columbiana County Training Association. Students will be earning money through the program and Watson suggested students will be saving a portion of that so they can purchase a vehicle when they graduate. He points out it does no good to provide students with job skills if they do not have the transportation to utilize them in a job later on.

The USA begins classes officially on Sept. 20 with 78 students enrolled, but Watson said students have already been working around the building, cleaning up and redoing the landscaping and have more plans for the area around the Hudson building. Inside the upstairs is ready for students, while work is ongoing to get the welding labs ready in the basement.

Watson suggested a change in engineering for the project to make certain everything is done right the first time. He also requested the board rescind a prior approval to buy signage for the building from Stewart Signs and to purchase them from a local company, Campbell Signs.

In other matters:

— The board approved a service agreement with the Jefferson County Educational Service Center, which will include two tutors, Mariah Hart and Maia Amato, as well as grading for the Virtual Learning Academy the USA uses for credit recovery as they work to keep all their students on track to graduate.

— The board voted to continue the contract of Robert Barrett, the school’s treasurer; renewed the sponsor agreement with the Ohio Department of Education and Dr. Warren Glen, who provides the school with guidance; and renewed the non-profit status for the school for the upcoming year.

djohnson@mojonews.com

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