BY SHELLEY TERRY
ASHTABULA — The Ashtabula Area City Schools Board of Education took the first step Wednesday night to renovate the former Mother of Sorrows Elementary School.
The school district bought the school building at 1464 W. 6th St., about 16 months ago for $225,0000 to serve students with special needs, but first there’s work to be done on the building, Superintendent Mark Potts said.
“Ashtabula Area City Schools and other districts in the county have to bus special-needs students out of the county; they are on a bus two hours every day,” he said. “My vision for the building is to have a facility in Ashtabula County for these students. There’s no reason not to take care of special needs students in Ashtabula County.”
Potts said that’s the long-term plan. School district employees first cleaned and secured the building. At Wednesday night’s virtual school board meeting, the board authorized Potts and Treasurer Mark Astorino to advertise and receive bids for the following:
• Security system, fire, burglar and surveillance.
• Window and exterior door replacement.
• Parking lot paving.
• Interior and exterior painting.
• Restroom renovations.
• Concrete repair and handicap accessibility.
• Telephone and public address systems.
The money to purchase the building came from funds taken out of the money garnered from the sale of other buildings, such as Thomas Jefferson Elementary to the Ashtabula County Educational Services.
“For $225,000, it will save millions,” Potts said. “We won’t have to pay to send [special needs] kids to Lake County.”
The purchase also was designed to prevent an undisclosed buyer from developing a charter school at the site.
“A charter school could mean the loss of 200 students, which would reduce state funding to the school district by $1.2 million,” Astorino said. “If this were to happen, the district will be forced to reduce staffing by approximately 25-30 employees.”
Potts said in addition to helping the county’s special needs students, the purchase saved jobs.
School officials are meeting with the Ashtabula County Educational Service Center and superintendents from throughout the county about shared services. Potts said everyone is on board with the idea.