New Fitch High School will be a tough sell

AUSTINTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) — Does the Austintown Local School District really need a new high school?

Those who run the district, along with those who oversee Ohio’s School Facilities Construction Commission, say yes. And on Thursday, a public meeting on the issue was held at the high school they want to replace.

Approximately 50 people, including 15 or so who were school officials, were at the meeting. The design showed a wooded area where the new high school would be built as well as the auditorium, gymnasium and stadium, which would be renovated while the current high school is torn down.

“One of the things is the building does look very nice from the outside. Brick buildings do. But the systems inside are over 50 years old,” Superintendent Vince Colaluca said.

The state would provide $31 million. A 4.1-mill 37-year bond issue will be on the May 6 ballot for Austintown’s $37 million share, plus $9 million to renovate the gym, auditorium and stadium.

The total cost for everything is $77 million.

“As a parent, are you going to decide to continue sending your children to Austintown schools?,” said bond issue committee co-chair Lori Gavalier, who is a Fitch alum.

She said she is concerned that without a new building, students will leave the district.

“We don’t want to lose our good students, and the students we’re going to lose are going to be the cream of the crop,” Gavalier said.

Senior Francisca Perez-Diaz gave one of the night’s speeches, describing what it’s really like in the school.

“The reality is when anything bad happens at school, we’re not surprised because after all, you’re at Fitch High School,” Perez-Diaz said.

A representative from the painters and glazers union asked that the work be given to local unions, which was a promise that could not be made. However, the majority of the work at Austintown’s other new schools was done locally.

Will this be a tough sell?

“Yes. That’s why we’re trying to get the information out there, get the facts out there, so the people know how to vote at election time,” Gavalier said.

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