Tallmadge -- As of the 2013-14 school year, students enrolled in the Summit County Educational Service Center's autism, childcare vocational or alternative online programs will attend classes at Tallmadge City Schools' David Bacon Building.

The school district is leasing part of the building on Strecker Drive off Southeast Avenue to the ESC, from which it will run its autism program for middle school and high school students, childcare vocational program for high school students interested in working in preschools, day cares or as education aides, and alternative online program for high schooler students who want to complete their education outside of the traditional classroom.

The programs are run from facilities throughout the county.

Students affected by the move include those in school districts which participate in the Six District Educational Compact, including Tallmadge, Stow-Munroe Falls, Hudson, Cuyahoga Falls, Woodridge and Kent. As a group, the Compact provides various vocational programming for students, and many of the programs are run from facilities in Kent.

Steve Wood, business director for Tallmadge Schools, said although the ESC won't pay a substantial fee to lease the building -- the lease calls for only $1 per year -- the ESC will pay all utilities and routine maintenance of the 28,000-square-foot building. That will save Tallmadge schools $45,000 to $50,000 per year in utility costs and wages paid to custodians, he said.

Wood said the school district only uses about 5,000 square feet of the facility for its early intervention preschool program and offices for its Student Services Department.

"Basically, what we have here is an opportunity to get one of our buildings an opportunity to work a little harder for us ... we've been brainstorming for awhile now about how we can more efficiently use the David Bacon property," Wood said at the March 20 School Board meeting.

"We're transferring all of the costs to operate the property over to the Summit County ESC, and we're keeping it as active building," he said. "If we had shut down the David Bacon Building, which was an option, it would have become a dead asset and would decay. That's what happens to buildings that just sit vacant and quite frankly, rot."

JoAnn Chirakos, director of the Student Services Department, which includes the early intervention and special education programs, will move to the McCombs Education Center, along with two staff members. Two other employees affiliated with the childcare vocational program will either stay at the David Bacon Building or move to the high school.

The early intervention preschool program will remain at David Bacon.

The ESC is permitted to use the building as of June 1. Its programs will utilize most of the rest of the space in the building.

The school district spent about $10,000 preparing the McCombs Education Center, including new carpet and paint, for the transferring employees.

The building also has served as storage for equipment and student records. Wood said the records may be converted to a digital format, and the equipment will be moved to another location.

"David Bacon for a long time has been a dumping ground, so this is a chance for us to clean up some of the storage," he said.

If the school district decides it wants to break the lease to reclaim the entire the building, the agreement allows for that, with proper notice to the ESC, he said.

Tallmadge students to benefit from closer programs

Superintendent Jeff Ferguson said students from Tallmadge and others school districts will benefit from having the programs move to David Bacon. Not only will currently enrolled students be closer to the programs, but students who weren't able or didn't want to participate in the vocational or online programs because of the distance may want to join.

The agreement prompted some praise from the Board of Education as well.

"It's a great job on the business management end of it, but to keep our students that will benefit from having those programs close -- we'll be able to keep them right here at home," Board member Valorie Prulhiere said.

Ferguson also commended Wood for finding a way to make the building work more efficiently for the school district while saving taxpayers money.

Earlier this year, the district was considering moving its early intervention preschool program to a vacant building at the Summit Developmental Disabilities Board in Tallmadge, but Wood said that option didn't work out. The facility didn't have enough space, and the available space was more expensive than the school district had hoped, he said.

Wood said the district's intention is to keep the David Bacon Building and the property on which it sits because it might someday become the home of a new elementary school. Voters turned down a levy last fall that would've funded the building of a new school on the 20-acre property.

"We intend to hold onto the property long-term until the Board [of Education] decides what we want to do with it. We're going to put it into a holding mode," he told the Tallmadge Express.

Email: hschoenstein@recordpub.com

Phone: 330-541-9428