The Akron school board voted Monday to accept $466,000 in grants for after-school and STEM programming, then deliberated behind closed doors for nearly an hour before ironing out the details of an expected $450,000 annual lease agreement for the Central Hower property.
The property was released to the University of Akron in December in exchange for $13.5 million in merit scholarships for Akron graduates who enroll at UA. Some 50 Akron schools graduates were eligible for those scholarships this year.
The lease agreement had been tabled a month ago to allow Superintendent David James to negotiate undisclosed items with UA officials. Two weeks ago, James concluded that negotiation and five of six board members present Monday voted to accept the agreement, which includes annual rent of $1 and an estimated $450,000 in utility bills for Akron schools’ STEM high school.
Miller, also the sole no vote in the December resolution to sell the property, was not available for comment after the meeting.
Board President Jason Haas said any objection may have been because some felt that two weeks was not ample time to contemplate the details of the altered agreement.
Changes to the contract included an exit clause for Akron schools, pending a 12-month notice in the first four years of the lease. After that time, Akron schools would lease the space, about 45 percent of the building, from year to year.
Because Akron schools has invested $2 million in technology upgrades at Central Hower, the contract also calls for UA to compensate Akron schools should they not renew the lease agreement after the first four years.
“If they boot us out, they’ll have to pay a portion of that,” James said.
Akron schools forfeits that compensation should they terminate the lease early, though Haas and James said the school has neither the money nor the time to find space for the 400 students who would eventually attend the STEM high school.
The board also accepted $466,000 in grants Monday night, including its second installment of GAR Foundation funding for the district’s STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) program.
Akron schools’ National Inventors Hall of Fame, or STEM program, started in 2009 at the middle school level with a 2008 startup grant for $1 million, also from the GAR Foundation. Last year, the foundation pledged $800,000 to expand the program to the high school level, creating the program at Central Hower.
With an initial $150,000 installment, remaining funds would be distributed over three years as the school district seeks $1.2 million in matching community grants.
The STEM high school opened last fall. The program adds a class of 100 students each year until the school will host about 400 ninth- through 12th-grade students.
Many middle school students from the original program now comprise the freshman and sophomore classes at the STEM high school.
The $216,000 GAR Foundation grant accepted Monday night is part of the $800,000 pledge. Next year’s award amount would be $317,000, followed by a final installment of $117,000 in 2015. Akron schools must raise $634,000 this year and $234,000 next year to match those GAR funds.
Assistant superintendent Ellen McWilliams said that with nearly $500,000 already raised this year, and exceeding last year’s local match goal by $100,000, the school should have no problem finding investors to reach the $634,000 benchmark by Dec. 1. The Omnova Foundation and the Ohio STEM Learning Network, a consortium of businesses led by the nonprofit research and development organization Battelle in Columbus, have supplied about 83 percent, or more than $400,000, of the local match raised thus far.
Additional STEM funding was accepted Monday from the Betty V. and John M. Jacobson Foundation for $5,000 and the Goodrich Corp. for $10,000.
The board also accepted an annual grant from the city of Akron for the district’s after-school programs.
That $158,000 was accessed through a federal grant administered by the Ohio Department of Education’s 21st Century Community Learning Center grant program. It helps to support Akron’s $2 million after-school programs, which serve 5,000 students, including half of all elementary students, with 1,000 programs.
“We offer everything under the sun,” said Desiree Bolden, manager of Akron’s extended learning program. Still, Bolden would like to add music. She’d also like to expand current offerings to eliminate waiting lists in many schools.
“Every year it’s challenging to look at the budget. But the important piece is the commitment to the extended day,” Bolden said, noting the program’s national recognition from the U.S. Department of Education in 2009. “Truly the long-range goal would be to have sustainable funding.”
To round out the $466,000 in grants accepted Monday, the LeBron James Family Foundation offered $50,000 to retroactively pay for the Summer 2013 Technology Camp, during which fifth-graders brushed up on their computer skills through tablet-based activities.
Doug Livingston can be reached at 330-996-3792 or email@example.com.