December 21, 2014

Elyria
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Lorain district gets $3.4M

District may rehire some laid-off teachers

LORAIN — Lorain School District officials, who have endured plenty of hard knocks these past few months with a massive deficit and teacher layoffs, discovered Friday the district will receive $3.43 million in federal money.

The money was awarded from the U.S. Department of Education’s Magnet Schools Assistance Program.

“We were hopeful we were going to get it, but we didn’t know for sure,” said Dina Ferrer, a Lorain school board member. “It’s good news for our school district.”

The district applied for the grant about the time school let out for summer break this past year, and they had expected to hear back from the federal government by August.

“It’s a month later, but it’s still good,” Ferrer said.

The program primarily is a desegregation program aimed at diversifying school districts, but it allows some flexibility in creating programs that accomplish such goals, Ferrer said.

More importantly, perhaps, the district will be able to rehire some of the 240 or so teachers who were laid off in recent months after school officials discovered an unexpected $5 million deficit that was missed because of a former school treasurer’s error.

A press release announcing the grant from U.S. Sen. George Voinovich, R-Ohio, said the grant will be used for two middle schools and five elementary schools, and will also be used to hire more teachers in math, science, language arts, music and fine arts.

“The grant award is a huge accomplishment, and I eagerly anticipate the results that the implementation of these programs will have for Lorain City Schools,” said Voinovich’s press release.

Ferrer, who wasn’t notified of the grant award until late Friday, said the district hasn’t decided how the money will be allocated and how many teachers could be rehired.

“We’re just going to be specific to what the grant allows,” Ferrer said. “We haven’t hammered it out yet.”

Lorain Schools Superintendent Cheryl Atkinson did not return calls seeking comment.

School board member Raul Ramos said it was premature to comment on how the money will be used, but he anticipates technology programs could be one area of focus. 

Ferrer said the district used the magnet schools program more than a decade ago as a desegregation tool to co-mingle students into different buildings, which was done by creating schools that specialized in certain areas, such as fine arts or technology.

One middle school, for instance, could heighten its focus on a fine arts program while another could intensify programs on technology, and students could actually choose which school they want to attend, Ferrer said.

The fine arts programs at most of the Lorain buildings were eliminated or significantly scaled back in light of the deficit, and they’ve been what parents have been clamoring to restore.

“We used to do that a long time ago,” Ferrer said. “It was very successful. The programs were very good, and the kids like it.”

Ultimately, the grant will dictate the spending flexibility for the $3.43 million, Ferrer said.

Ramos, meanwhile, was simply happy the district received the funds.

“It’s great that we got this,” Ramos said.

Contact Shawn Foucher at 653-6255 or sfoucher@chroniclet.com.