Changes come to Liberty district

PK-6 Principal/ Special Education Director Andrew Scarmack, left, reviews materials with PK-8 Lead Principal Jessica Kohler, Katie Cvengros, intervention specialist and Carla Collins, intervention teacher in a remodeled room at the K-6 School in Liberty.

LIBERTY — When students returned to school last week for the 2018-19 year, major changes awaited them as the district reconfigured and added many new course offerings and programs.

Saying the district wanted to “step up its game” Superintendent Joseph Nohra said engineering / technology labs, a new seventh-and-eighth-grade area, and Liberty Cyber Academy were all added this year.

The district has seen declining enrollment in recent years because students left Liberty for other districts through open enrollment, chose home schooling, or attended charter or online schools.

Nohra said the changes were made to better serve students and focus on “future ready” education. He said efforts were made to offer online courses, more special education units and new programs to encourage students to stay in Liberty.

The new school reconfiguration involved turning E.J. Blott Elementary, which previously was kindergarten to fourth grade, and W.S. Guy Middle, which previously housed fifth to eighth, into one large Blott Guy PK-6 School with new classrooms.

The seventh- and eighth- graders of Guy Junior High were moved to the second floor of the high school, with new rooms created for them. The ninth- to 12th- graders are in a separate section of the school.

Also, the district entered into a partnership with Wee Care Daycare, offering care for children before and after school.

“If a parent can’t be there when school ends, the children can stay until 6 p.m.,” Nohra said.

The Trumbull County Educational Service Center also recently opened a preschool unit for special needs children in the PK-6 building.

Liberty partnered with TCESC to host special education units at Blott Guy. The units, which will offer special education services to students with various disabilities, allow the district to keep many of its own students in Liberty for their education.

“We will have one of the largest special education centers in the area,” Nohra said.

He said 99 percent of the special education students will remain at the Liberty site instead of being bused to other districts in the county.

“One of the biggest changes is STEM offerings for all grades. There are engineering programs at the high school where students will be involved with robots and drones. The elementary students are also being introduced to STEAM (science, technology, enagineering, arts and math) enrichment offerings,” Nohra said.

After-school programming, in conjunction with the United Way of the Mahoning Valley and Youngstown State University, is provided to students in kindergarten to sixth grade.

Blott Guy PK-6 will be centered around problem-based learning with STEAM offerings and Guy Junior High will be centered around STEM and also offer engineering and robotics.

Liberty High School will offer students more career tech classes, including introduction to engineering and drone technology. The district also is bringing back its honors program as Liberty Scholars and career-based intervention offerings. The high school also is expanding its extracurriculars to include robotics and engineering clubs and girls soccer.

Nohra said each student in seventh to 12th grade received a Chromebook.

“We are a true 1-1 seventh to 12th grade with children able to take their devices home,” he said.

To provide security, a full-time resource officer will be in the schools and also will offer diversion programs for students dealing with social issues and drug and alcohol prevention awareness.

A food pantry is also being provided for students who may need food during the school week. A backpack program with food for elementary children also will return.

High School Lead Principal Akesha Joseph said the Leopard Cyber Academy will be used for students in sixth to 12th grades for online learning and also focus on career-based intervention.

“There are so many more offerings for the students. At the Cyber Academy, students work online. We want to best service the students of our community,” she said.

Students in the Cyber Academy work online and also take quizzes and tests in the room.

Joseph said rooms have movable furniture, movable walls and flat screens.

Pam McCurdy, district curriculum director, said the elementary students will participate in STEAM programs in partnership with the Students Motivated by the Arts program in Youngstown.

“There will be programs in the fine and performing arts, from music to performances,” she said.