Utica Shale Academy Purchases Building for $500K

SALINEVILLE, Ohio – With full classrooms and a new building project that came in far over bid, the Utica Shale Academy instead just added another $500,000 building to its campus.

The three-story building at 10 Main St., formerly the Williams Energy office, will allow even younger students to benefit from the career-based programming at Utica Shale.

Superintendent Bill Watson said the school has been growing strong, so much so that it had to cut off enrollment for seniors in December when the school reached 160 students in grades nine through 12. With the new building, the school can add seventh and eighth graders and move the ninth graders in with them, opening up space for up to 350 students.

The younger students will be on the second floor of the building, Watson said, where they will receive early introductory classes into the trades. The first floor will allow Utica to offer more programming through its partnership with the Youngstown State University Excellence Training Center, including robotics and industrial technology trade programs.

The building is being paid for with part of the $2.35 million the school received last summer from the Governor’s Office of Appalachian Regional Commission Grant program. At the time, the school’s plan was new construction, but Watson said bids came in 300% what was anticipated.

Instead, the school on Jan. 30 was able to purchase the 22,695-square-foot Williams Building, which was built in 1995 and was the original headquarters of Citizens Bank.

The third floor will be used for administrative offices, with the possibility of Utica’s partnering district, Southern Local Schools, moving the superintendent’s offices from the current location in a modular office behind the school.

“Partnership and collaboration are the most important part of growth,” said Watson, who believes without partners like Southern Local, the ARC, YSU and others, the school would not be where it is today. More than 1,100 at-risk students have gained certifications from the school since 2021. The school started 10 years ago with just a handful of students in one room at Southern Local.

“Southern Local doesn’t get the publicity and the credit they deserve for our success,” Watson said.

The school also received $20,000 from Marathon Petroleum, which it used to buy flame retardant, cold-weather gear for students learning welding skills at the outdoor welding lab this winter.

Watson also is announcing a partnership with the Columbiana County Sheriff’s Office to enhance campus safety. The academy obtained a $452,975 COPS School Violence Prevention Program grant through the office of U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland and the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services.

Along with a $150,000 match by the school, the money will be used to implement additional safety equipment such as metal detectors and cameras, as well as training in safety protocols for staff and students. Additionally, the school will employ a safety officer to work with the 23 school districts that currently send students to the Utica Shale Academy.

Although there has been only one case of an alleged weapon reported at the school, which turned out to be a false alarm, Watson believes it is important to be proactive and work with both the sheriff’s office and Salineville Police Department.

The campus now includes the Hutson Building, which houses general classrooms and the Virtual Learning Academy program through the Jefferson County Educational Service Center. The Utica Energy Center is currently at the former Huntington Bank, which is where YSU classes in megatronics, hydraulics, pneumatics, AC/DC electric, programmable logic controllers, diesel mechanics and horticulture are currently taught. 

The school has also opened the Utica Shale Academy Community Center on Church Street, offering a fitness center and certified health workers.

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.