Local school districts prepare for student loss

Plant closure may affect schools

Lordstown Schools Superintendent Terry Armstrong said he and other school officials and staff recently got together to talk enrollment figures, trying to determine how many students will be affected by the closing of the General Motors assembly plant.

“Lordstown is a smaller district than others, so we were able to determine between 50 and 75 students could be affected with the closing,” he said.

Armstrong said he’s learned some families already are temporarily split — one parent transferred to another General Motors plant, while the other parent remained locally so their child can finish the school year.

But the impact on the school district won’t be known until actual enrollment figures for the 2019-20 school year are available this summer, he said.

Armstrong said one-fifth of the Lordstown student population is being impacted by the closure, and several of them are seniors. To help those parents who are transferring, the district moved its annual Senior Night to January so both parents of seniors could attend. The event was to have been held in the spring.

“We wanted to have as many families attend as possible before people began leaving,” he said.

GM announced the closing of the Lordstown assembly plant, and four other North American sites, in November. The final Chevrolet Cruze, which Lordstown produced since 2011, rolled off the line March 6.

“There is a lot of uncertainty,” Armstrong said.

The district receives $2,800 per student. The loss of an estimated 50 to 75 students due to the plant idling would result in a loss of $140,000 to $210,000 from the state, Armstrong said.

Financially, the district also receives $800,000 in property taxes from GM. Armstrong said the new valuation of the GM property will determine if the district sees less is property taxes.

Armstrong said he spoke to a superintendent in another area of Ohio where they had a smaller plant close and property taxes there went from $400,000 to $25,000.

He said he is aware of three staff members within the district — a teacher, a bus driver and a tutor — who have spouses at GM and will be affected.

“We understand these families have hard decisions to make on what they are going to do,” he said.

Austintown Superintendent Vincent Colaluca said he doesn’t have an exact number of students in the district whose families are affected by the closing, but he said he knows “there are some families where one parent has already relocated while the other stays here with the children so they can finish the school year.”

He said, “It is not just the parents of students who work at GM, but all the other companies that are being impacted and also closing who may also have to leave to find jobs.”

Colaluca said he should know the impact on enrollment when school officials look over figures for 2019-20 school year. He said the district receives $3,400 per student from the state.

“By summer we should know what impact this has had on our school district. Families want to let their children finish their school year here,” he said.

Colaluca said he is aware of three district teachers who will be leaving at the end of the school year as a spouse who works at GM is being relocated. The schools already have helped some families with food and other needed items.

Colaluca said if there is major decrease in enrollment, class sizes will be adjusted, but he does not see programs being affected.

“It is hard to say right now, at this point, what affect this will have on the district. I know we have students whose families work there,” he said.

Joseph Kenneally, president of John F. Kennedy Schools, said one family is leaving the district at the end of the semester this month in March and it includes a teacher at the lower campus. He said a replacement will fill the remainder of the school year.

“Like many schools in the area, we are being affected as families are being transferred to Buffalo or other locations,” Kenneally said.

He said he is aware of two other families leaving by the end of the school year. Some , he said, have opted to stay in the area to find other work. Unlike public schools, JFK does not receive state funding based on student enrollment, he said.

“We will do what we can to provide financial aid to families who may need that,” Kenneally said.

Lakeview Schools Superintendent Robert Wilson said he is not aware of any staff affected by the closing, but indicated he is aware of a few students whose parents work there. Like Lordstown, Lakeview receives $2,800 per student.

On average, the district has seen a loss of two or three percent in student enrollment each year, Wilson said, but he does not expect to see it change that much with the closing.

The fate of the plant — whether it will remain open with a new vehicle or close for good — will be determined in the next round of contract talks between the UAW and GM later this year. Their contract expires Sept. 14.

bcoupland@tribtoday.com

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