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Shale academy to create outdoor welding lab space

SALINEVILLE — Unhappy with the slow process of installing the welding lab in the basement of the Hudson Building housing the Utica Shale Academy in Salineville, the board has decided to move forward with plans to create an outdoor welding lab space.

Superintendent Bill Watson and board member Mark Chronister emphasized the importance of students learning that if they are going to work in the welding industry, many times they may need to weld in less-than-ideal conditions. Chronister said people hiring welders note that often those jobs are not inside, especially in this area. People need to be able to weld in a muddy ditch in the cold and heat.

Watson said after being assured the welding lab in the basement would be ready in August, he was later told the end of January. However, parts of the project are still waiting for approval for the installation, which means students who were able to weld last year are not getting any practice during their senior year.

The outdoor welding lab does not have all the same requirements needed for the basement lab. In the future, the school would like to have both labs up and running.

During Tuesday’s meeting, the Utica Shale Academy board approved creating the new lab, which will be a concrete structure, a lean-to style building, according to Chronister, keeping the rain and snow off the students and equipment.

It will include a 100-megawatt natural gas generator. The outdoor lab will be located at 65 E. Main St., a property the school purchased across from the current shale academy student parking area, and will hopefully be available for students to begin practicing welding skills as soon as mid-February. Eventually, that 3-acre property also is slated to house the Kubota Tech program.

Scott Shepherd with A&I Design Studio architecture will be working on the construction phases and coordinating with Columbia Gas.

The academy already has the welding machines from Lincoln Welder for that facility, but could need additional machines once the lab is finally done in the basement.

Watson also informed the board that an advertisement by Southern Local for a vendor for heating and ventilation for the Hudson Building is not connected to the welding lab problems, but issues with the building’s current HVAC system. Because Southern Local actually owns the Hudson Building and the academy leases it from them, Southern Local is responsible for the repair to the building.

In other matters:

• The board appointed Ursula Mehno to the open seat resigned by Karl Blissenbach, who left after being elected to serve on the Southern Local Board of Education. Additionally, the board chose Bill Pitts to serve as president for 2022 and moved the meetings to 4:30 p.m. the first Monday of each month. Traditionally, the board had been meeting on the second Tuesday.

• During the financial report, Treasurer Robert Barrett said in looking at the expected funding from the state for this year, it appears the school is $70,000 below expectations, but the Ohio Department of Education Office of School Sponsorship, which the board renewed its partnership with for another year at Tuesday’s meeting, is looking at what is believed to be an error in the calculation.

• The board approved a $2,500 grant from Wal-Mart that Watson said will be used for purchasing Surface tablets for use in the classrooms. The board also accepted a $1,700 donation from the D.B. Dixon Memorial Scholarship, which will be used for the diesel program for purchasing a Snap-on battery charging and testing kit.

• The board approved Alannah Kutan to serve as the testing coordinator for Utica Shale students and a change in the staffing agreement of Carter Hill.

• The board approved using OnSolvea to provide school communications, which will allow the school to notify all students or a subgroup of students at once instead of the current method of personally calling all the students in the program.

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