Education

$12M Community Workforce Center to Open in January

CAMPBELL, Ohio — A multipurpose center that will house among other services a new science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM, academy should be finished by early next year, officials said Wednesday.

The $12.3 million Community Literacy Workforce and Cultural Center, which broke ground in 2018, is a project that incorporates education, health and wellness, workforce development and economic development into a single location, said Matthew Bowen, superintendent of Campbell City Schools.  

“We know this area is in need of a qualified skilled workforce,” he told guests attending a press event. “In order to do that, we need to provide a better means of education, and we want to do that with a shared-service model.”

The facility is under construction on the campus of Campbell Middle School at Community Circle Road. Tall sections of mason block are in place, and the steel framework for the building should be arriving soon, Bowen said.

An integral part of the center will be the Northeast Ohio Impact Academy, a school that serves students in grades 7-12 with a concentration on STEM innovation and hands-on learning. The first graduating class is scheduled for 2021.

Campbell City Schools Superintendent Matthew Bowen discusses the project Wednesday with U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson, R-6, Ohio, and Arthur Daly, vice president of Eastern Gateway Community College.

“It creates choice for students,” Bowen said. “It’s just not for the four square miles of Campbell City schools, but this opportunity is going to be for the entire region.”

Students would be selected through a lottery process, Bowen said.

The project is a result of collaboration between Campbell City Schools, Eastern Gateway Community College, Stark State College, Southwoods Health, the Public Library of Youngstown and Mahoning County, the Mahoning County Mental Health and Recovery Board, The Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber and the United Way of Youngstown and the Mahoning Valley.

Aside from training the school-age population, the center will also provide training and certification programs for adults, Bowen said.  

“Our program blends K-12 education with higher education,” Bowen said. “When you graduate from the 12th grade, you can also leave with a degree in hand from either Eastern Gateway or Stark State in some of the programs that they’re going to be offering.”

Stark State, for example, will bring its ShaleNet program at the center, Bowen noted. “Our Programs stretch into the summer, evenings and weekends,” he said. “We’re going to be a regional solution.”

U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson, R-6 Ohio, was on hand to tour the worksite and said he is impressed at how the community is taking a novel approach to education.

“What you’re saying is music to my ears,” Johnson said. He shared with guests his own struggles throughout public schools, noting he didn’t “learn how to learn” until he joined the U.S. Air Force.

U.S. Rep. Johnson said he was impressed by the community’s approach to education.

“To some degree, we’ve got to get back to the basics and teachers ought to be able to teach and not prepare a student to take a standardized test,” the congressman said. “This idea that a one-size-fits all proposition and that every child learns the same is just false thinking.”

More than $12 million was raised for the project without a single tax levy, Bowen said. The bulk of the financing came from a $9 million Qualified Zone Academy Bond initiative – a federal program that ended in 2017 that awards education programs funds at 0% interest over 15 years. The Ohio Department of Mental Health & Addiction Services contributed $500,000 toward the project, the public library another $525,000 and $300,000 from the state of Ohio’s biennial budget.

“There are significant partnerships that made this possible,” Bowen said.

The first floor of the 67,260-square-foot building will consist of a community gym, a wellness center, a conference center, the public library, a Southwoods Health urgent care, a multipurpose room and administration offices.

The second floor includes a simulation lab, a dental clinic, a shale lab and a STEM lab. 

A portion of the middle school – 11,500 square feet — will be renovated to house classrooms, labs and career development areas used by the Impact Academy. A mezzanine will connect the new building with the renovated section of the middle school.

The renovated section of the project should be open by this fall, while the adjoining new building should be finished and open by January 2020, Bowen said.

“I think this is innovation at its finest,” Johnson said. “They’re looking at the workforce needs of our region, they’re looking at the education requirements of our kids and they’re taking matters into their own hands.”

Every child learns differently, and most families want their children to grow up and raise their families in the community, he said. “This is the kind of thing that gets young people started off in that direction.”

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.