A historic former Akron church with an uncertain future went up in flames late Wednesday night in a fire that took emergency crews hours to get under control.

The Akron Fire Department received a report around 11:30 of smoke and flames coming from the unused stone building, the old St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, owned by the University of Akron.

The fire at the property at 354 E. Market St. on the campus’ northern edge, quickly grew to a two-alarm blaze Thursday, and escalated to a three-alarm fire.

Fire crews are expected to be on the scene throughout the day Thursday and East Market Street will be closed at North Forge Street for the day, according to a news release from the fire department.

The building — the oldest portion of which opened in 1885 — at the northern edge of the University of Akron campus is owned by UA, which previously housed its Ballet Center there.

UA had mothballed the property about 10 years ago, and in 2016 alarmed preservationists when it put demolition of the property on a list of proposed projects for which it hoped to receive state money.

However, a subsequent list of capital projects did not include the church building.

The fate of the building remained uncertain as UA had no plans for the property.

Preservationists have urged the university to help develop a plan to save the structure.

UA vacated the building in 2006, moving Ballet Center operations to a new addition to Guzzetta Hall on campus.

The Ballet Center, the heart of UA’s Dance Program, had been housed at the old church for years, along with the Dance Institute — a pre-professional program for students in elementary school and high school — and the former Ohio Ballet professional dance company.

The church is actually two buildings connected by a wood-frame breezeway, with the older portion being the former parish house/Sunday school. The newer portion opened in 1909.

The congregation remained at Market and Forge until 1952, when it moved to the church’s present location on West Market Street in West Akron.

Check back with Ohio.com for more details as they become available.

MEDINA: Gavon Ramsay never raised his head in court Wednesday, even after a guard plucked a tissue out of a nearby box and handed it to the 17-year-old as a judge explained how Ramsay could spend the rest of his life in prison if convicted.

The skinny boy with short brown hair — who faces murder charges for allegedly killing his 98-year-old neighbor in Wadsworth April 6 — appeared at the Medina County Juvenile Court hearing via closed-circuit monitor from the juvenile detention center about two miles away.

It was not clear on the courtroom television whether Ramsay was crying. He stood slumped forward at a microphone next to his public defender, hiding his mouth and chin inside the stretched-out neck of a long-sleeved undershirt he wore beneath a green jail outfit.

The Wadsworth High School junior denied all charges against him through his attorney.

Media were prohibited from filming or taking pictures of Ramsay on Wednesday because he is charged as a juvenile — charges the prosecution is seeking to bump up to adult charges in common pleas court.

The Beacon Journal, which usually does not name juveniles charged in crimes, is choosing to name Ramsay because of the seriousness of the allegations. He faces murder, burglary and abuse of a corpse charges, all felonies, in the death of Margaret Frick Douglas, a widow who was killed in the gray-sided house on Portage Street where she had lived since at least 1958.

Ramsay lived with his family in a brown stucco home five houses away on Summit Street, where Portage Street dead-ends.

If it wasn’t for trees and garages blocking the view, Ramsay could have seen Douglas’ backyard from his house.

For the first time, it was revealed in court Wednesday that police believe Ramsay killed Douglas on April 6, three days before neighbors notified one of Douglas’ nephews that something may be wrong because they hadn’t seen Douglas.

The nephew, who lives in Stark County, reported her missing April 9. Police overlooked Douglas’ body during their first walk-through of her house, which she never locked. Nothing looked out of place. Officers thought they were investigating a missing persons case.

Hours later, they found Douglas’ body hidden in a closet under clothing. Police have said they believe she was strangled.

Ramsay was among several suspects early on, police said. He had previous run-ins with Wadsworth police over vandalism and other nonviolent crimes a couple of years ago and more recently was a suspect in a string of car break-ins in the neighborhood that happened in the weeks before Douglas’ slaying.

When questioned in recent days, Ramsay fessed up to the petty crimes, police said. He denied, however, being involved with Douglas’ death. Police later discovered that Ramsay had Douglas’ wallet and made plans for his arrest Monday.

In court Wednesday, Judge Kevin Dunn granted two prosecution requests, ordering Ramsay to submit a DNA sample and to have no contact with either the nephew who watched over Douglas or the nephew’s wife.

Ramsay’s parents, Christine and Steve Ramsay, sat at a table behind their son during Wednesday’s court hearing, at times looking puzzled or pensive, as if they wanted to intervene.

It appears the family has lived in the same house on Summit Street since about 2007, based on court records. Gavon Ramsay is the couple’s second-eldest child, one of four boys and the oldest still living at home, according to the family’s social media accounts.

On Facebook, Gavon Ramsay belongs to Facebook groups dedicated to parkour running (using urban landscape for improvised exercise) in Akron, woodworking tips and cars for sale in Ohio. He liked the Bible, the Cleveland Cavaliers and the teen best-seller The Hunger Games.

He occasionally posted his thoughts or pictures for public view, most recently on Dec. 29. He uploaded a 360 degree panoramic view of a frozen, snow-covered lake alongside a picture showing someone standing alone at the end of a short, wooden pier staring across the ice.

He never mentioned his 81-year-old grandfather’s death on March 15.

The family held a viewing for U.S. Army veteran Glen “Buck” Ramsay five days later at Wadsworth’s Hilliard-Rospert Funeral Home before burial at the nearby Ohio Western Reserve National Cemetery.

Margaret Douglas, the widow of a U.S. Army veteran who fought in World War II, was killed 17 days later.

This week, her family, too, will host a viewing at Hilliard-Rospert Funeral Home.

And Monday, Margaret Douglas will be buried alongside her husband, Donald Douglas, at Ohio Western Reserve National Cemetery.

Amanda Garrett can be reached at 330-996-3725 or [email protected].

A 22-year-old Akron woman remembers being at Johnny J’s bar in Akron’s Merriman Valley after a day of drinking with friends.

She doesn’t recall falling asleep on the ride to her East Akron home after a friend called for an Uber for her or her driver having to shake her awake and help her walk into her house.

The next thing she remembers is waking up to find her Uber driver having sex with her.

That’s the account Assistant Prosecutor Elliot Kolkovich gave during his opening statement Wednesday in the jury trial of Brandon Franklin, the Uber driver who is accused of sexually assaulting the woman last March.

Emmanuel Makris, Franklin’s attorney, however, gave a very different version of what happened on the night of March 25. He claims the sex between Franklin and his passenger was consensual, with the woman inviting Franklin into her home and then coming on to him.

“This is Mr. Franklin’s story,” Makris said.

Franklin, 34, of Tallmadge, is charged with one count of sexual battery, a third-degree felony. His trial in Judge Jay Wells’ courtroom is expected to last through Friday.

The woman told police she woke up in her room and found her Uber driver sexually assaulting her. She said he fled when she pushed him out of her room. (The Beacon Journal generally doesn’t name sexual assault victims.)

This the first time an Uber driver has been charged with sexual assault in Summit County, though other employees of the popular driving service have been charged with assaulting passengers elsewhere in the country.

The Summit County case is happening about a week after Uber announced added safety measures, including a 911 feature similar to a panic button that connects passengers to dispatchers and annual reviews of drivers’ background checks.

The jury of six men and six women was seated by about 2 p.m. Wednesday, followed by opening statements from the attorneys and testimony from two of the woman’s friends.

Kolkovich told the jurors that the woman and her friends went several places for drinks and food. The drinking intensifying at Johnny J’s, where they did several shots. He said the woman’s friends say she was “the drunkest they’d ever seen.”

The friends went to South Point Tavern in the Wallhaven area, where the woman vomited. That’s when one of her friends decided to order an Uber to take her to the home she shares with her father. He also called her father to let him know she was on her way, Kolkovich said.

Franklin picked the woman up about 10:45 p.m..

Franklin’s semen was detected by a rape kit, confirming he and the woman had sex, Kolkovich said.

The question, Kolkovich said, is whether the woman was so impaired that she wasn’t able to give consent.

“Keep in mind when you hear the testimony about how much she had to drink all of the things society will not let you do when you are impaired – drive, board a plane, rent a car,” Kolkovich said.

And yet, Kolkovich said, Franklin had sex with the woman and “she doesn’t remember.”

Makris said Franklin didn’t know the woman was impaired. He said her friends didn’t say anything to Franklin about this when they put her in his car and asked that he “get her home safely.”

When they arrived at the woman’s home, Makris said, the woman invited Franklin in and he went inside. He said they started making out and then had sex.

Afterward, Makris said, the woman asked Franklin to stay the night, but he said he couldn’t because he was still working. He said the woman gave Franklin her number and asked him to take a picture of her to remember her by. He said Franklin drove for Uber for four more hours and then went home.

Stephanie Warsmith can be reached at 330-996-3705 or [email protected]. Follow on Twitter: @swarsmithabj and on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/swarsmith.

Nationally recognized political scientist John Green will rise temporarily to the top job at the University of Akron.

School trustees Wednesday named Green, who has been at UA for 31 years, interim president effective May 1, taking over the responsibility from President Matthew Wilson, who plans to return to the law school faculty.

Green, among four nominees to serve as interim, said in an interview after the board meeting that he wants to serve in the post “really out of sense of loyalty to the University of Akron.”

The university “and the community has been very, very good to me and my family,” said Green, who is dean of the university’s College of Buchtel Arts and Sciences and joined UA in 1987.

Green also is director of the Ray C. Bliss Institute of Applied Politics at UA. Local and national media personnel know him as a knowledgeable, down-to-earth, quotable academic.

Last month, Wilson surprised the UA campus and community by saying he would step down from the top post July 31 and rejoin the UA law school.

His announcement came two weeks after he fell out of the running to be president of the University of Central Florida.

Wilson, who was the UA board meeting Wednesday, now is one of four finalists for the top job at Utah Valley University, and may leave UA before July 31.

Wilson and the other finalists will be on the Utah campus Thursday to meet with groups representing faculty, staff, students and administration.

Utah’s Board of Regents could announce their selection at 5:45 p.m. public meeting Friday.

Short-term solution

Green said Wednesday after the UA board of trustees meeting that he does not want the job permanently, and, he said, the trustee’s search committee for the interim post “agreed with that perspective.”

UA board of trustees Chairman Roland Bauer said at Wednesday’s meeting that Green’s contract to be interim president is still being worked out. Trustees plan to vote on it at their next regular meeting, June 13.

Trustees said earlier this month they plan to hire a search firm to hunt for a new president.

Bauer said in an email to the university community Wednesday that while trustees want to complete the search for UA’s 18th president “as quickly as possible,” they expect Green will serve as interim for at least a year.

Wilson, who joined UA in 2014, was dean of the law school when he was named interim president of the 22,000-student university in July 2016. That was following the resignation of President Scott Scarborough amid calls for his ouster.

Scarborough, who inherited financial challenges due largely to a debt-financed building boom and enrollment declines, was criticized for the way in which he cut costs, among other actions.

Trustees removed the interim tag from Wilson’s title in October 2016.

Wilson has said he was “plucked from the law school.”

Last fall, trustees extended Wilson’s contract through June 30, 2023.

Wilson’s pursuit of the top job at Florida Central University also surprised many.

He said last month that he couldn’t pass up a chance at heading the university in Orlando, where he worked early in his law career and his family has roots.

First priority

Green said in the Wednesday email to the campus community that of “utmost importance is the completion of the Academic Program Review and commencing work on developing the university’s strategic plan.”

He said in the email that he looks forward to working with UA colleagues “as we move forward.”

Green acknowledged in an interview that anxiety over the program review is heightened by budget woes “that many, many universities have.”

The review itself creates anxiety, he said, because in the past it “has led to both very positive things — finding areas in which we want to invest — but also areas in which we want to disinvest.”

Any changes, he said, will come slowly.

The review “also is a great opportunity” to put UA “on a good path…where we can increase enrollment and solve some of our economic problems,” Green said.

Bauer said Wednesday that UA will suspend a national search for vice president and chief academic officer until the new president is selected.

Nominees for the interim post were put forward by representatives of various campus and community “constituency groups,” including deans, department chairs, Faculty Senate and Undergraduate Student Government.

The three other nominees for the interim post were Ravi Krovi, dean of the College of Business Administration; David Baker, director of the Center for the History of Psychology on the UA campus, and George Haritos, a mechanical engineering professor and former dean of the College of Engineering.

Katie Byard can be reached at 330-996-3781 or [email protected].

United Way of Summit County kicked off the celebration of its 100th anniversary Wednesday at the organization’s annual meeting at the John S. Knight Center in downtown Akron.

Last year, United Way unveiled four Bold Goals by 2025, focused on what it calls key community measures — improving third-grade reading levels, financially empowering 11,000 people, improving high school graduation rates and fighting the opioid crisis — to guide its work in upcoming years.

United Way announced that 14 corporate Centennial Sponsors have pledged $1.825 million in honor of the organization’s centennial at a luncheon attended by nearly 700 people, including community and business leaders.

Jim Mullen, United Way president and CEO, spoke of the greater Akron community’s long tradition of community service.

Mullen listed examples of United Way’s growing footprint in the community. That includes its upcoming relocation to the Sojourner Truth Building in downtown Akron and pending merger with Info Line Inc.

The move into the Sojourner Truth building will help United Way grow, Mullen said. The merger with Info Line will give residents a single place to call for emergency and referral services, he said.

“We’re not going to be stuck in neutral,” Mullen said. “We are going to continue to move forward.”

United Way will no longer be defined by its fundraising, Mullen said. The organization will instead define success in large part by its impact on creating a healthier community, he said.

“It’s all about home,” Mullen said.

Last year saw a record number of volunteers at United Way engagement events, according to a news release from the organization.

And for the first time in its 100-year history, the United Way of Summit County’s board will have a majority of women.

The following people were elected to United Way’s board of directors:

• Cynthia Flynn Capers, Ph.D., retired, the University of Akron; Michele Cerminaro, GOJO Industries Inc.; Jennifer Dale Fox, PNC Financial Services Group; and William Lowery II, Stouffer Realty Inc. to their second three-year terms.

• Sandy Auburn, Ph.D.; Elizabeth Bartz, State & Federal Communications, Inc.; Nicholas Browning, the Huntington National Bank; Timothy Burke Jr., KeyBank; Bill Feth, AESCO Holdings LLC; David Jennings, recently retired director of the Akron-Summit County Public Library; Kimberly Jones; Andre Lessears, Cleveland Clinic Akron General; Micah Mitchell Hines, Blackwell Burke; Pastor David Parker, Zion Apostolic Faith Church; and Mark Wernig, the Heritage Group at Morgan Stanley to their first three-year terms.

• William Steere, Steere Enterprises, to a one-year term.

• Ann Clark, Signet Jewelers; and Pam Williams to a first three-year term following an unexpired term.

Officers for 2018-19 will be: Board chair, Christine Amer Mayer, GAR Foundation; vice chair, Mark E. Krohn, law office of Mark E. Krohn; immediate past chair: James E. Merklin, Bober Markey Fedorovich; treasurer: Michael P. Mazzeo, Ernst & Young LLP; secretary: Brock W. Steere, Steere Enterprises.

Summit County’s air quality dropped from an A to a B grade in the 2018 “State of the Air” report put out each year by the American Lung Association.

While Ohioans overall are breathing cleaner air, several areas in Ohio had more unhealthy ozone days than in the 2017 report, according to the new report released Wednesday.

Cleveland, tied for 10th, and Cincinnati, tied for 18th, ranked among the 25 most polluted areas in the United States for year-round particle pollution, the 2018 report said.

Unhealthful levels of ozone put people at risk for premature death and other serious health effects such as asthma attacks and greater difficulty breathing for those living with lung disease, Ken Fletcher, director of advocacy for the American Lung Association in Ohio, said in a prepared statement.

“Across the nation, the report found continued improvement in air quality, but still, more than four in 10 Americans, 133.9 million, live in counties that have unhealthful levels of either ozone or particle pollution, where their health is at risk,” he said.

Summit County received a B grade for ozone, also known as smog, down from an A in 2017, and a B grade for short-term particle pollution, or tiny soot, the same as a year ago.

The Cleveland, Akron and Canton region ranked 30th for high ozone days out of 227 metropolitan areas; 68th for 24-hour particle pollution out of 201 metropolitan areas; and 10th for annual particle pollution out of 187 metropolitan areas.

The region ranked ninth worst in the nation a year ago for particle pollution.

Other Northeast Ohio counties that received grades are:

• Cuyahoga: F for ozone, unchanged from last year; B for particle pollution, up from a C a year ago.

• Medina: B for ozone and A for particle pollution, both unchanged from 2017.

• Portage: A for both ozone and particle pollution, unchanged from a year ago.

• Stark: F for ozone and B for particle pollution, unchanged from a year ago.

The full report can be read at http://www.stateoftheair.org.

The Akron school district is now facing three federal lawsuits seeking a total of $74 million for providing access to an Akron man sentenced to prison for his Scared-Straight efforts.

The third lawsuit was filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Akron by attorney Eddie Sipplen on behalf of the mother of a Leggett elementary school student. This was the second such suit filed by Sipplen.

Like the other previous lawsuits, the latest case accuses the district of violating the student’s constitutional rights by allowing Christopher Hendon to operate a Scared Straight program at Leggett when he wasn’t a police officer or trained to interact with students. The student, identified in the lawsuit as W.H, is African-American and has a learning disability and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), according to the suit.

“The school failed these kids,” Sipplen said.

Hendon, 26, of Akron, was sentenced to five years and 11 months in prison March 7 after he pleaded guilty to 31 charges, including impersonating a police officer, kidnapping and abduction. He will be eligible for an early release after 18 months.

Investigators say Hendon took children in handcuffs from their schools or elsewhere to the Summit County Juvenile Detention Center or the Summit County Jail as part of an unofficial Scared Straight effort.

District leaders have declined to comment on the lawsuits.

“So as to not inordinately influence litigation, Akron Public Schools is offering no comment at this time,” Mark Williamson, a district spokesman, said.

The latest lawsuit seeks $25 million, the same as the other suit filed by Sipplen. The first suit, filed by attorney Ed Gilbert on behalf of another family, asks for $24 million. The suits are against the Akron district, Superintendent David James, Leggett employees and Hendon.

The newest suit claims school officials gave Hendon W.H.’s mother’s phone number and Hendon called her last April to say that her son would be participating in his Scared Straight program. When the mother arrived at the school, she saw her son handcuffed to another African-American boy of about the same age. Her son was hysterical and screamed, “I don’t want to go to jail!” according to the suit.

The boy’s mother agreed to allow her son to participate in Hendon’s program. Hendon took W.H. to the juvenile detention center and tried to take him to the county jail. Hendon brought W.H. home about an hour and a half after school, according to the lawsuit.

Hendon also put handcuffs on W.H. and other children on other occasions, according to the suit.

Since his interactions with Hendon, W.H. has struggled more with his behavior and learning, including increased incidents of emotional outbursts, property damage and mistrust of police and authority figures, according to the suit.

The three similar lawsuits are assigned to Judge Sara Lioi and are expected to be consolidated.

Stephanie Warsmith can be reached at 330-996-3705, [email protected] or on Twitter: @swarsmithabj.

An Akron man was sentenced to four years in prison for his role in a November 2017 robbery in Brimfield that netted him and an accomplice $60.

The Record-Courier newspaper reports that Brandon A. Riley, 24, pleaded guilty in February in Portage County Common Pleas Court to complicity to robbery, a second-degree felony. He was ordered to pay $30 restitution to his victim and also pay $564 in fines and court costs, the paper reported.

Riley received 139 days credit toward his sentence for time served in the Portage County Jail while he awaited trial, the Record-Courier said.

Riley, along with an accomplice, was charged with robbing a man of $60 in the Walmart parking lot at 250 Tallmadge Road.

Riley at the time was on parole on drug-related charges and stolen property charges.

Read the full Record-Courier report here.

Two teenagers have been arrested following the shooting Monday in Canton of a 19-year-old man, the Canton Repository reported.

The 19-year-old was found at about 4 p.m. Monday behind a convenience store in the 1100 block of 15th Street NE with a gunshot wound to his stomach, the newspaper reported. He was taken to Aultman Hospital and remains there in serious condition, Canton police said.

On Tuesday afternoon, Canton police arrested a 17-year-old boy on juvenile charges of felonious assault and aggravated robbery, and a 16-year-old boy on charges of complicity to aggravated robbery and complicity to felonious assault, the paper said.

Read the full Repository report here.

Nimishillen Twp.: Stark County sheriff’s deputies are investigating after the body of a man reported missing was discovered Tuesday outside a gas station.

Dead is Mark Billiter, 56, who had been reported missing Monday morning from the Glenwood Care and Rehabilitation Center in Canton.

Deputies were called shortly after 4 p.m. Tuesday to the Marathon Gas Station at 5085 Louisville St. NE in Nimishillen Township after a passerby found Billiter’s body near a storage building.

Billiter suffered from several health conditions including dementia and had been a resident at the rehabilitation facility on 34th Street Northwest.

The Stark County Sheriff’s Office continues to investigate in cooperation with the Canton Police Department and the Stark County Coroner’s Office.

Anyone with information is asked to contact the Stark County Sheriff’s Office at 330-430-3800.

Ronald McDonald House Akron, which serves as a home away from home for patients and their families at Akron Children’s Hospital, had to turn away 4,000 people last year because there wasn’t enough room.

People shouldn’t be turned away anymore now that a new $14.2 million house is ready to open with more than double the space — and room to grow.

The original 20-room house, built in 1985, is being replaced with a 42-room facility attached to the existing house on Locust Street next to the hospital. The bigger house was made possible after the city of Akron agreed to vacate a portion of Locust Street and the hospital gave land that once was a park.

“We no longer will have to say no 4,000 times a year to families we don’t have room for,” Executive Director Anne Collins said. “It’s a vast improvement over what we’ve been able to offer to our families.”

After two years of construction, the charity is holding a private ribbon-cutting and grand opening celebration for the new house on Thursday.

Then on Monday, when current families move to the new space, the existing house will be shut down for a few years. Plans are to renovate the old house to eventually offer a total of 60 rooms for guests, Collins said.

Talk of expanding the house, which is a separate entity from Children’s Hospital but has direct ties to it, began shortly after Collins arrived 10 years ago. Studies showed the house could handle 52 to 72 rooms.

A place to call home

The house offers lodging for children or their loved ones when they are patients at Children’s Hospital and don’t have the ability to travel back and forth for their inpatient or outpatient care.

“We support everyone,” said Collins. “Literally people can come here with the clothes on their back and we can help them.”

Some families arrive in emergency medical situations, while others come for planned procedures, she said.

As the hospital has expanded throughout eastern Ohio, demand to stay at the house has increased over the years, Collins said.

Rooms at the Ronald McDonald House usually are provided on a first-come, first-served basis. Some families coming from out of state with more complicated procedures may be able to make reservations. There is no time cap on how long a family can stay.

A $10 per night donation is suggested, but only about 24 percent of families last year were able to pay, said Aristea Tzouloufis, director of development for Ronald McDonald House Akron.

Patients and their families have stayed at the house from 43 counties in Ohio, 12 states and four countries.

Last year, 10,000 people representing more than 500 families stayed at the house, Tzouloufis said.

Collins knows the bigger house will allow for more families to stay, but “we really foresee a waiting list happening soon.”

Adding employees

By the end of the year, Collins wants to hire four more employees to total 12 in the home. But the house would not run without the 170 dedicated volunteers, she said.

Ronald McDonald House Akron funded the $14.2 million project with a combination of a fundraising campaign in conjunction with Children’s Hospital and some tax credits, Collins said.

Collins credits John Zoilo, a former house board member and also former president of the Akron Children’s Hospital Foundation, for getting the new house on solid financial funding.

The house expects its annual budget to increase from $1.2 million to $2.1 million with the expansion. The nonprofit is funded with donations and grants.

The house was built by Thomarios Construction.

The benefit of designing a brand new house was the ability to cater it to the needs of families.

A portion of one living room area is cozy with no television since there are many Amish families who stay at the house, Collins said.

“This is communal living,” she said. Some families choose to stay in their rooms while others like to relax with other families going through similar experiences when they are not at the hospital, she said.

The bedrooms are all on the second and third floor of the residence, creating some distance from gathering areas downstairs.

In the current house, the common area is within ear shot of some of the rooms, said Collins.

“We may have had a family playing cards and being loud and a room above them getting ready for a 5 a.m. surgery,” she said

The new house also features 10 long-term stay rooms, which have a separate living area with a mini fridge and microwave.

“Before, Mom would be in a room and would be stuck in the room after the child went to sleep,” Collins said. With a separate living area attached to the bedroom in a long-term stay room, “she can come and relax.”

Feeding families

A family pantry area off the expanded dining room provides families with an area to store their own perishable and nonperishable food in lockers. Food is provided at the house for families — simple meals for breakfast and lunch are available and a sit-down dinner is cooked by volunteers every night.

Another new feature of the house is a family kitchen with four stove areas — separate from the commercial kitchen — to allow families who want to prepare their own meals the ability to do so. In the current house, there is one small kitchen for families and the larger house meals.

The dining room went from three to four tables to an area able to seat 150 people.

The house also offers a large community meeting room, which the nonprofit wants to make available to other nonprofits and businesses for meetings.

“We did without one for years. We know what it’s like,” said Tzouloufis.

Artwork around the house has been donated or purchased at steep discounts from local artists such as Don Drumm, Zeber-Martell galleries and Harris Stanton galleries. Lazy-Boy of Northeast Ohio also donated or provided at a discount 60 percent of the living-room furniture. The Amish-made headboards and dressers and nightstands were ordered from a father of a former transplant resident of the house. The owner-operators of Northeast Ohio McDonalds also donated $1 million to the building of the house.

The old house served its purpose, said Collins.

“People loved this house, but it just wasn’t fitting our families’ needs anymore. The rooms are tired,” she said.

Medical writer Betty Lin-Fisher can be reached at 330-996-3724 or [email protected]. Follow her @blinfisherABJ on Twitter or http://www.facebook.com/BettyLinFisherABJ and see all her stories at http://www.ohio.com/betty

On its surface, a city loan for new school administration offices seems straightforward.

Akron Public Schools agreed to borrow $10 million from the city to buy the SummaCare building at 10 N. Main St. The new administrative building would replace the 102-year-old Sylvester Small Building (the former Bowen School) on North Broadway, where central administrators work, and the 88-year-old Conrad C. Ott Building (the former Miller School) on Steiner Avenue, used to support and train teachers and staff.

The $10 million debt — school bonds bought by the city — would be repaid over 10 years at a 2.62 percent interest rate, or nearly a percentage point less than any bank had offered the schools. The city expects to get $11,683,425.

The financing is a “win-win,” according to city and school administrators. Superintendent David James gets a cheap loan with no closing fees for newer, more efficient office space. Mayor Dan Horrigan, facing a budget pinch this year, gets a $1.7 million return on a pretty safe investment.

“This is another testament to the strong partnership between APS and the city and our shared commitment to making decisions that not only make financial sense but also have the greatest community benefit,” said Ellen Lander-Nischt, the mayor’s spokesperson.

But the financing is only half the deal.

What wasn’t explained last month when the deal was announced is that the mayor’s financial team is using the $10 million loan to settle a $6.6 million “dispute” with the school district that began under the Don Plusquellic administration.

This disputed amount, which has been settled at $5.3 million, involves annual payments the city owed the school district. The settlement will be applied to the bond repayments, effectively wiping out the district’s need to make the first five annual installments.

The dispute

City Council has no obligation to review or approve any part of the complex deal. And it didn’t have to sign off on the dispute settlement, which has a clause that says the agreement would “avoid the cost of prolonged litigation.”

“I have not been brought into these conversations,” said Mike Freeman, chair of City Council’s budget and finance committee, unaware of any dispute.

The settlement requires the city to pay $164,000 in interest on back payments owed to the school under a deal meant to compensate the district for money it initially loses when the city offers tax incentives to businesses.

The dispute stems from the city not making scheduled payments of about $3 million annually in 2014 and 2016 to the school district. City officials declined to discuss details about the disputed payments.

Jack Pierson, who was treasurer of Akron Public Schools until 2014, had been getting the annual payments — sometimes in March and sometimes in May — since the school and city struck a “compensation agreement” in 1996. Pierson’s successor, Ryan Pendleton, said he was never given a satisfactory, detailed explanation on why the city paid the schools $1.1 million one year and $4 million in another.

Pendleton also noticed little, if anything, coming in 2014 and 2016. So, he took a second look at the 1996 compensation agreement.

Time for review

The compensation agreement, which took effect in 1997 and expires Dec. 31, 2093, allows for some businesses that move into the city school district to avoid paying property taxes in exchange for promising jobs or economic growth.

Per the agreement, the businesses instead make direct payments to county tax collectors. The county then sends the proceeds to the city. The city, in turn, keeps what it’s entitled to under the compensation agreement. That includes what are called offsets, or the cost of any public works projects that the city completes to accommodate some businesses as they set up shop in or near Akron.

Whatever is left goes to the school district. It’s a standard agreement that many cities and schools have entered since the late 1990s. Schools, which share in the initial loss of property tax revenue, assume economic development will ultimately result in more families (and students) and a healthier tax base (which is felt gradually business tax breaks lasting up to 30 years expire on a rotating basis).

Pendleton and some school board members are advocating for more clarity and consistency in the payments the school district receives under the compensation agreement with the city in the future. They’re open to renegotiating the 1996 agreement, which doesn’t expire for another 65 years.

“I don’t know if those [2014 and 2016] payments fell through the cracks, but we never got them,” said Tim Miller, who serves on the school board’s subcommittee on finance.

Speaking about the broader issues raised by the “missed payments,” Miller said his “interpretation of the compensation agreement is that we [the school district] don’t have a seat of the table when it comes to getting details about where the money is coming from.”

Future payments from the 1996 agreement will pay off the last half of the district’s loan from the city.

The settlement wrapped in the bond sale also illustrates how city administrators can move money around in the budget and make multimillion-dollar transactions without notifying City Council.

The city will purchase the $10 million in school bonds through what is referred to as the “investment fund.” The mayor is allowed to use the fund, which isn’t listed in budget documents, without council’s approval per the city charter. The fund has assets that climbed from $138 million to $148 million in the first two months of this year. It’s fed by other city funds and used for low-risk investments, like municipal bonds and a state-managed investment fund.

The next two-month investment report provided to City Council will likely reflect another $10 million in bonds but no detailed accounting of whether that purchase was made by cashing in other investments or moving money into the investment fund from elsewhere in the city’s budget. Lander-Nischt said that after the city makes the school district whole, basically forgiving the first five years of repayment until the city has repaid $5.3 million for the 2014 and 2016 payments, the plan is to replenish the investment fund by the end of the 10-year loan repayment period.

Reach Doug Livingston at 330-996-3792 or [email protected]. Follow him @ABJDoug on Twitter or http://www.facebook.com/doug.livingston.92 on Facebook.

COLUMBUS: An Ohio online charter school that was one of the nation’s largest before it suspended operations amid a legal fight with the state is filing another appeal with the Ohio Supreme Court.

The Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow is looking to overturn a State Board of Education order that the school repay $60 million in state funding in a dispute over the number of enrolled students.

The Columbus Dispatch reports the appeal filed Friday argues the state board violated the Open Meetings Act while making its decision.

ECOT suspended operations in January after state investigators concluded the school had about 60 percent fewer full-time students than the 15,322 it had previously claimed.

ECOT officials are arguing in a separate case that the education department illegally changed its rules for counting students.

An argument on a main street slicing through the Middlebury neighborhood Monday evening led to the death of a 46-year-old Akron man, police said.

Jason Lamont Bradford died from a gunshot wound to his abdomen, the Summit County Medical Examiner’s Office said Tuesday.

Police continue to investigate the shooting, which happened in the 800 block of East Exchange at about 6:15 p.m.

A prohibition on the sale of tobacco products to anyone under 21, also known as Tobacco 21, passed Akron City Council on Monday by a slimmer margin than many had expected.

The proposal was introduced a month ago by Tamiyka Rose, Mayor Dan Horrigan’s health equity ambassador. Backed by county health officials, the ban on the sale — not the use — of tobacco to young adults quickly gained support from every major hospital CEO in the city.

The plan requires licensed tobacco retailers in Akron, which is home to half the places cigarettes are sold in Summit County, to register, which allows county health workers to post information on the negative health effects of smoking and help to quit.

Businesses that sell to customers who are under 21 years old will get a warning, followed by fines of $500 then $1,000.

Akron is the 10th Ohio city to adopt the new rule, which will take full effect in six months after Summit County Public Health updates environmental health code for Akron. Health Commissioner Donna Skoda has already met with leaders from other municipalities to spread the new smoking sale ban across the county.

The idea is to cut off slightly older friends from supplying underage teenagers who want to fit in. The end goal is to keep residents alive longer while reducing smoking-related health care costs associated with respiratory and cardiovascular diseases, including types of cancers.

“This legislation is not a panacea,” said Councilwoman Linda Omobien, who chairs the City Council’s health and social services committee. “It is one piece of legislation to help us move in the right direction, to help with this infant mortality crisis that we have in our city and to stop some of these young people from smoking.”

Over the past four weeks of deliberation, Rose has brought local doctors and experts to the council to share enlightening, and often alarming, health data that link tobacco use to early death and failed pregnancies.

On Monday, as Omobien prepared to call for a final vote to move the bill out of committee, Rose’s panel included two women who started smoking when they were 14 or 15. Both women quit when they found out they were pregnant. One has two weeks to go. The other delivered a healthy boy 5 months ago. She testified while city and county staff tried to calm his crying in the background.

Rose concluded the panel presentation with a data-driven diatribe on smoking. No member of the council disagreed that smoking is bad. It was government telling citizens, who by 18 are legally adults, what they can and can’t do that bothered some council members.

“I still struggle with telling an 18-year-old that you can get blown up next week in Afghanistan [serving in the military] but you can’t [buy a cigarette in Akron],” said Councilman Mike Freeman.

Dr. Rob Crane, a health professor at the Ohio State University and president of Preventing Tobacco Addiction Foundation, shared a microphone on the packed panel. As the leader of the Tobacco 21 movement in Ohio, Crane told Freeman that 90 percent of underage teens get their first cigarettes from friends and 95 percent of smokers start before their 21st birthday. Smoking, he continued, doubles the chance of infant mortality and decreases by half among teens in cities that ban sales to 18-, 19- and 20-year-olds — despite nearby communities permitting sales.

Freeman ended up voting for the increased age limit, which doesn’t outlaw smoking but does make it illegal to sell to young adults. Freeman also took the opportunity to ask his colleagues to consider adopting another effort championed by State Rep. Charleta Tavares (D-Columbus), who wants to give police officers the authority to issue $500 fines to adults seen smoking in cars with passengers who are 6 or younger. “Come on team, let’s think about this,” Freeman rallied.

Joining Freeman in voting for Akron’s new age limit were council members Jeff Fusco, Linda Omobien, Russel Neal, Rich Swirsky, Zach Milkovich, Margo Sommerville and Bruce Kilby. Not so enthusiastic, and ultimately not voting for the measure, were Bob Hoch, Donnie Kammer, Marilyn Keith, Tara Samples and Veronica Sims.

Sims and Samples — each abstaining — expressed concerns about enforcement and the creation of a black market for tobacco sales to young adults denied tobacco in stores.

Keith called the law “a contradiction of the … rights and responsibilities that are expected” of legal-age adults. She had “great concerns” about what might end up in cigarettes sold on the streets.

Kammer and Hoch said the matter should be left to state or federal legislators, or maybe through a statewide ballot initiative that would allow 18- to 20-year-old voters to decide. Kammer, who said his mother developed emphysema after a lifetime of smoking, was not swayed, not even when speaking of his 18- and 20-year-old children. “In my eyes, they’ll always be my children. But they’re adults,” he said.

Reach Doug Livingston at 330-996-3792 or [email protected]. Follow him @ABJDoug on Twitter. or http://www.facebook.com/doug.livingston.92 on Facebook.

Bob: April 3 was designated as “Punish a Muslim Day,” a time to torment adherents of Islam whether they be men, women or children. This edict emanates from a London-based Islamaphobic group seeking to export their hate here.

A dear friend and mother of a Muslim child told us with tears at the Akron Area Interfaith Council meeting how she had to keep her daughter home from school that day for her child’s safety.

Martin Luther King said that you cannot combat darkness with darkness or hate with hate. Only light and love can do that.

In seeking to comfort that distressed mother, I suggested we use humor as well as love and light.

How about designating April 4 as “Sock a Christian Day”? And then maybe another day as “Make Faces at an Amish Day.” Another day could be designated as “Poke an Atheist Day.” Or “Smack a Unitarian Day.”

And so on. Only our favorite columnist could think up more ways to show up those nuts who spread their vile by proposing extensions of their awful crusade with similar silly ideas.

Rev. Chuck Ausherman

Bath

Rev.: Now there’s a novel concept for achieving world peace!

You might be on the right track, but I think we need to work in some alliteration.

I’d go with “Belittle a Baptist Day,” “Cold-Cock a Christian Day” and “Pound a Presbyterian Day.”

Maybe “Estrange an Evangelical Day.”

Or “Marginalize a Mormon Day.”

How about “Noogies for Gnostics Day”?

And let’s make room for “Harass a Hebrew Day” and “Roust a Rastafarian Day.”

On second thought, I’m not sure how productive this is.

On third thought, nothing else has worked, so what the heck.

A bit wordy

Among my voicemails Monday morning was a woman who began by saying, “I’m going to leave you a brief message.”

Her message lasted four minutes, 59 seconds.

Brevity ain’t what it used to be.

Mom was right

Dale Jarvis sent me a copy of an article from Crain’s Akron Business that said the effort to get Ohio’s medical marijuana industry up and functioning by the September target date has been sluggish and the deadline likely won’t be met.

Quips Jarvis, “Didn’t they warn us as kids that marijuana saps your motivation?”

Lots o’ letters

Copy desk maven Mark J. Price cracked a smile while editing a story about the Akron chapter of APICS, a professional association for supply chain and operations management, merging with the American Society of Transportation Logistics.

Says Price, “I’m really hoping this makes the new name APICSASOTL.”

Bob Dyer can be reached at 330-996-3580 or [email protected]. He also is on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/bob.dyer.31

A weak tornado did indeed hit Summit County Sunday, dropping onto a fast food restaurant, then spinning off through a shopping center parking lot, causing mild damage and overturning a couple of cars.

The Cleveland office of the National Weather Service Monday initially called the event in Coventry Township a “strong downburst.”

But after seeing a video of the storm, investigators changed their minds, said Tom Smoot, senior administrator in Summit County’s Emergency Management Agency.

Meanwhile on the other end of the county, the same storm system tore a 50-by-100-foot hole in the roof of the Amazon fulfillment center on Independence Parkway in Twinsburg. The National Weather Service said that event, which happened at 6:33 p.m. Sunday, was a downburst, a strong column of sinking air that can cause tornado-type damage.

No injuries were reported at either site.

The funnel cloud touched down at 6:16 p.m. and traveled a tenth of a mile. Its 25-yard width managed to wreck a sign and some exterior of the Burger King on Manchester Road, topple a couple of small trees, obliterate a traffic light between the Burger King and the Acme Fresh Market across the street, cause minor damage to Acme’s Fuel Center, and overturn two cars in the parking lot before essentially disappearing.

About 10 minutes after touchdown, the tornado sirens in neighboring Barberton went off, automatically triggered by a National Weather Service warning of severe weather.

Since the warning came after the tornado had finished, NWS meteorologist Robert LaPlante said he suspects radio traffic on the SKYWARN Network — a group of trained, amateur weather spotters — had alerted the Cleveland office of damage in Coventry Township.

That’s probably what led to the sirens being activated and storm warnings chiming on cellphones throughout the area.

There was little on radar to suspect a tornado was in the offing.

“The actual radar info we had at the time of the line [of rain] was very subtle,” LaPlante said. The Coventry tornado was an EF-1, with a speed of about 110 mph, compared to the more violent EF-5 tornadoes with wind speeds in excess of 200 mph.

A security video from the Akron Coin & Jewelry on Manchester Road showed a whirling white cloud moving through the parking lot it shares with the Acme Fresh Market.

In the background of the video, a car flips over as the tornado moves through.

A security video from Acme also showed the white cloud.

The National Weather Service tornado warning also covered Portage and Stark counties and was in effect from 6:29 p.m. through 7:15 p.m., with special emphasis on Cuyahoga Falls, where the conditions seemed right for a twister that never happened.

But the storms — with some 2.14 inches of rain falling on Akron on Sunday — did cause flooding throughout the region.

Monday morning in Barberton, four middle school children and two adults had to be taken off a school bus that stalled in floodwaters on 14th Street just after 7 a.m.

Barberton City Schools Superintendent Jeff Ramnytz said it appears the bus driver made an error in trying to maneuver down the street. He praised firefighters and his school maintenance department for quickly responding to the stranded bus.

Not far from the city’s high school, the highway ramps from Interstate 76 to Barber Road were closed due to flooding. Much of Barber Road was also closed to traffic.

To the north, the entire Ohio & Erie Towpath in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park was closed because of severe flooding, and Twinsburg Mayor Ted Yates reported that several roads in his city were closed.

To the east, the city of Green closed all of its athletic fields because of the weather.

FirstEnergy Corp. reported a handful of power outages in the Akron area by Monday afternoon.

More weather excitement lies ahead.

By the time Tuesday rolls around, snow showers could leave as much as two inches on the ground before it turns over to all rain later in the day.

Highs will then rebound to the 50s on Wednesday.

The weather service says 7.89 inches of rain has fallen in Akron since March 1, about three inches above average for this time of year.

Staff writer Brandon Bounds contributed to this report. Reporter Jim Mackinnon can be reached at 330-996-3544 or [email protected]. Craig Webb can be reached at [email protected] or 330-996-3547. Paula Schleis can be reached at 330-996-3741 or [email protected].

1 Members of the Holy Family School’s PAWS Club (Pray always; Act responsibly; Work hard; Show respect) have participated in several activities this school year to be stewards of their faith.

Members of the group, consisting of students in grades kindergarten through fifth at the school in Stow, have been bell ringers for the Salvation Army at Christmas time, helped provide items to Good Neighbors, helped the homeless in Akron and provided many craft items to the elderly at Heritage of Hudson.

2 Seaman Tyler Newhouser, a Canton native and 2015 graduate of Canton South High School, is serving in the U.S. Navy aboard the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush as an operations specialist.

3 Nick Salladay, a member of Boy Scout Troop 48 in Akron’s Ellet neighborhood, achieved Boy Scouting’s highest rank of Eagle Scout last month.

Salladay, 18, earned a total of 31 Merit Badges and two Palm Awards over the course of seven years as a Boy Scout. For his Eagle service project, he coordinated a work crew that installed outdoor lighting in the pavilion at Wedgewood United Methodist Church, Troop 48’s charter organization.

Salladay is a senior at Akron STEM High School, a member of the National Honor Society and works at Parasson’s Italian Restaurant. He plans to attend the University of Akron in the fall to study computer science.

He is the son of Bob Salladay of Akron and Colleen Salladay of Akron and brother of Jimmy and Brad Salladay, also a Troop 48 Eagle Scout.

4 Eleven seventh- and eighth-grade students from Wadsworth’s Sacred Heart School competed last month at the Mohican District Science Day fair at Ashland University. The following students received category awards and scholarships: Hailey Smith, Governor’s Award in Biotechnology and Biomedical Technology Research; Gianna Oliverio, Charles Rivers Laboratory Award; Helen Chermak, Lily Myers, Gianna Oliverio and Alexis Youngblood, Buckeye Women In Science, Engineering, and Research Camp Scholarship; Carson Bernard, Ohio Tuition Trust Authority College Advantage 529 Award; and Matthew Sandor, alternate to Ohio Tuition Trust Authority College Advantage 529 Award.

5 St. Sebastian Parish School Band won first place last month in the junior band category at the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in downtown Akron.

6 Employees in the office of Sandra Kurt, Summit County clerk of courts, donated $2,900 to local nonprofit organizations: F I Community Housing, Not Just October and Akron Snow Angels. The donated funds were raised from a program permitting staff to dress casually on Fridays in exchange for their contribution.

7 University of Akron student and ROTC cadet Tristen Sweitzer from Akron recently joined 8,300 service members, wounded warriors and civilians from around the world in the annual Bataan Memorial Death March.

The Bataan Memorial Death March is a 26.2 mile or 14.2 mile marathon staged in the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico consisting of intense challenges and obstacles, including elevation changes and sand pits. The event commemorates the sacrifice and service of the 72,000 U.S. service members who were prisoners of war in the Philippines during World War II.

Sweitzer is a senior majoring in emergency management and homeland security at UA. He was also a member of the UA team of five ROTC cadets who finished third out of 46 college ROTC and West Point teams participating in the marathon.

After graduation in May, Sweitzer will be stationed on active duty with the Army as a 2nd lieutenant in the infantry.

The weekly Good News column features awards and recognitions, military and scholastic achievements, civic accomplishments and other good works. Please fax information to 330-996-3033, email it to [email protected] or send it to Good News, Akron Beacon Journal, 44 E. Exchange St., Akron, OH 44309. Include a photograph if one is available. Be sure to identify all individuals pictured in the photo.

Purse auction assists Akron Children’s

Purses Are Like Friends drew 176 attendees to Fairlawn Country Club on April 7. The Friends of Akron Children’s Hospital hosted the event, which raised more than $9,000 for the Department of Pathology.

Guests shopped the new and gently used purses and enjoyed a lunch of salad, sticky buns, chicken crepes and pecan balls. Dr. Dimitri Agamanolis, director of Neuropathology, spoke about the hospital’s electron microscope and how it’s used.

Brooks Ames ran the live auction, which included purses from Coach, Michael Kors, Kate Spade and Versona.

Event co-chairs were Ruby Winters and Joyce Berkenstock, and other committee members and Friends of Akron Children’s Hospital volunteers include Nancy Bodnar, Donna Sterner, Nicole Nordby, Beverly Scott, Sharon Schott, Carole Hose and Betty Thomas. Linda Hetson, vice president of professional services at the hospital, and Anthea Daniels, vice president and general counsel, also attended.

For more information, see http://www.akronchildrens.org.

•••

More than 200 supporters attended March GRADness at Greystone Hall in Akron on April 2. The event benefited Project GRAD Akron’s college access programs and scholarship fund.

The event was held before the NCAA men’s basketball championship game between Michigan and Villanova. Some guests got into the spirit with sports or college attire, and enjoyed trivia games, food, prizes and a photo booth.

The event was chaired by board members James Harris Jr. and Anita Davis. Serving on the steering committee were Jacqueline Silas-Butler, executive director; Dana K. LaGarde, president of the board of directors; Ingrid Abraham-Turner, Cynthia Blake, Lawrence Butler, Howard Curry, Johnnette Curry, Barbara Feld, Lashawrida Fellows, Randall “Rich” Freeman, Annette Grimes Hammonds, Byron Hopkins, Andre Lessears, Mary Outley-Kelly, Angela Payden, Richard Roberts, Danielle Stokes, Abraham Wescott, Virginique Whitmore and Kimberly Young.

Project GRAD provides programs, support and scholarships for underrepresented students to help their scholastic efforts from kindergarten into their careers. For more, see http://www.projectgradakron.org.

’Tis the season for state testing, when kiddos will demonstrate their knowledge through weeklong series of tests. But for some students, the pressure that comes with just the thought of test-taking can inhibit academic performance.

Studies show that test anxiety affects anywhere from 10 to 40 percent of all students, from kindergartners to doctoral students. But as testing becomes more ingrained in education, psychologists are seeing an influx of test anxiety in younger students.

“Things like the third-grade guarantee or retention in third grade … For our third-grade students, this becomes some momentous times for them to be able to demonstrate mastery,” said Erich Merkle, the central office school psychologist in Akron Public Schools. “What would’ve been thought of as an adolescence or adult disorder years ago, we’re starting to see some pretty good evidence that this is occurring in early grades.”

Test anxiety is a form of “state anxiety,” or anxiety caused by certain situations, that goes beyond simply being nervous before an exam. Test anxiety can cause a number of symptoms, including dread, worry, restlessness, task avoidance, headaches, sweating and nausea.

Katrina Lindsay, a school psychologist with the School Success Clinic at Akron Children’s Hospital, said pressure is like a bell curve — a little bit can actually boost performance. But when students don’t feel any pressure, or more commonly, when they feel too much pressure, it begins to negatively affect their test performances.

“A lot are very, very smart, but when they experience high-risk performance activities … they kind of fall apart,” Lindsay said. “What we find is when they’re in a low-stress environment, they’re good, but anxiety over the test sometimes becomes a part of them.”

Primal reaction

Students aren’t the only ones who experience test anxiety. Merkle said teachers and even building administrators experience it too, especially with high-stakes tests that affect state report cards.

When left unchecked, test anxiety can manifest itself into a more permanent issues, like generalized anxiety disorder, social withdrawal and depression.

Anxiety is a primal fight-or-flight reaction that our bodies developed for survival. Anxiety is an “anticipatory cognitive process,” Merkle said — in other words, it’s caused by our brain making predictions of what will happen in situations based on past experiences. Students with test anxiety may remember a time they did poorly on a test, causing them to have repetitive, worrying and often irrational thoughts about upcoming tests, which creates a cycle of anxiety and poor performance.

Luckily, that means people have the power to control their anxiety through practice with positive reinforcements.

How to quell anxiety

As schools gear up for state testing — third- through eighth-grade testing begins Monday in Akron Public Schools — Lindsay offered ways parents can help quell their children’s anxiety:

• Teach your child how to ground themselves by having them “check in” with their five senses before testing starts (ask what they see, hear, smell, taste and touch). It helps them come back into their bodies and out of their brains, Lindsay said.

• Make sure kids are getting the recommended amount of sleep for their age. Start bedtime routines ahead of time if possible, and encourage kids to “leave their worry thoughts at the door” by having them write down their thoughts and put them in an envelope taped to the bedroom door.

• Inspire kids by doing things like leaving motivational quotes in their lunches.

• Find an empowering song to play every day leading up to the test.

• Celebrate their effort — not just their grades — by doing something fun after the test, like getting ice cream or going to a movie, so kids don’t have time to speculate about answers they may have gotten wrong.

• Remind kids that your love is not contingent on grades or scores. Also, remind kids that anxiety is normal; let them talk about it and share with them times that you felt a similar way, Merkle added.

Theresa Cottom can be reached at 330-996-3216 or [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @Theresa_Cottom.