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Utica Shale Academy acquires new equipment

LISBON — The new industrial maintenance equipment is ready for the students of the Utica Shale Academy and the school’s director Bill Watson said now they just need the students to return to be able to use it.

Because of COVID-19 restrictions the students have been working on the portions of the program they can complete virtually and Watson said Tuesday much of that work is now done. The students need to be in the lab in order to complete the program this year.

Watson said even if the school is unable to fully reopen, he is hoping to work with the Columbiana County Health Department to get small groups students in the lab during separate times.

The Utica Shale Academy industrial maintenance lab is located in Southern Local High School, where students are able to get hands on training in basic tools, electrical systems, pneumatics and hydraulics. Watson said they are very lucky to have found Matt Gates to teach the class, who really understands the maintenance systems overall and can also utilize the new technologies.

Watson told the Utica Shale Academy board he is in the process of applying for two Remote X grants, a 21st Century Grant and another Equity Grant this year. One of those grants being sought would be used for purchasing virtual welding equipment for the same industrial maintenance lab, which would give students the opportunity to learn the technical parts of welding.

There are currently 74 students at the Utica Shale Academy, including 24 seniors. The average attendance this year, despite many of the classes being held virtually, has been 75.22 days of the 80 possible. On Fridays, 34 of the students are attending classes through the New Castle School of Trades.

As things have gone remote due to COVID-19, the school delivered 40 laptops to the students who needed them this year. Additionally, students in need are receiving meals every Wednesday throughout the county.

In other matters during Tuesday’s academy board meeting:

¯ The board discussed meeting ethics training requirements and concerns about the utilization of larger CARTS vans to transport students. After the meeting, Watson said they are in the process of making a change to smaller buses instead.

¯ The board reappointed Karl Blissenbach as president and Mark Chronister as vice president for 2021.

¯ The next meeting of the board is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. Feb. 9 as the board decided to continue meeting on the second Tuesdays of the month.

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