Chesapeake school district receives $10.3M to expand several programs

Published 4:24 pm Wednesday, June 26, 2024

By Terry L. Hapney, Jr.
The Ironton Tribune

Ohio Means Jobs services, expansion in robotics and engineering classes and on-site physical therapy, preventative care and wellness checks are coming to Chesapeake Union Exempted Village Schools thanks to a $10.3 million grant from the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission.
Ohio House Speaker Jason Stephens (R-Kitts Hill) announced the $20,805,000 in funding will support initiatives at a school district in Lawrence and another in Gallia County. The funds are awarded through the Appalachian Community Innovation Centers Program; $88 million was awarded to a total of 11 school districts across Ohio.
“Investing in our schools, especially in our rural communities, builds a better future,” Stephens said. “By equipping our students with the necessary tools, we are setting them up for success in the classroom and beyond.”
Doug Hale, superintendent at Chesapeake Schools, said during the past couple of years the Board and entire district made a commitment to pursue grant opportunities for community and innovative centers.
“When the governor released this Appalachian Community Innovation Grant possibility in March, we were on a Zoom meeting with probably 500 different people who were also interested—throughout the state of Ohio.”
Hale said Chesapeake’s team—Jamie Shields, assistant superintendent/director of curriculum and special education, and Treasurer Shelby Davidson—was in the meeting, too.
“Our eyes lit up when we heard about the grant and saw the rubric,” Hale said.
District officials considered it a “real opportunity,” meeting with partners in the county, including representatives from Ohio Means Jobs, Lawrence Economic Development Corporation’s Bill Dingus and Jeremy Clay, physical therapist Jared Blankenship, Chesapeake’s athletic boosters president Jimmy Harris, and reps from the youth sports league.
“We have some great partners,” he said. “We met with our board in a special meeting to tell them about the grant. We were like, ‘let’s go for it.’”
Pulling “all our efforts in,” Hale said Shields handled the rubric “excellently.”
“We thought we had a great application,” Hale said.
After submitting it, Hale communicated with staff at OFCC. A few weeks before the grant was announced, Chesapeake was still in the game.
“We were hopeful,” he said. “At the same time, we’d been hopeful before and not received a grant.”
The news they’d waited for arrived June 13.
“We were elated,” Hale said. “We know it’s going to be a lot of work, but it’s work that’s well worth it.”
When it comes to grant applications, Hale said “you just have to keep grinding.”
“We have a great team here that has always looked at opportunities for our district,” he said. “I think our hard work and persistence really helped us in this grant application and being successful.”
Hale said they knew the competition “was going to be off the charts.”
“We’re so proud that we were one of the 11 (districts) chosen,” he said.
Plans for the $10.3 million include renovating the high school building for increased emphasis on public education, community health services and enhanced workforce development; this gives Chesapeake students more educational opportunities.
Part of the grant will benefit Chesapeake’s robotics and engineering classes.
“We partner with Collins (Career Technical Center) for those,” Hale said. “Our robotics team has been to the world championships the last two years. The engineering program is top-notch as well. Our kids are leaving our high school ready to move on to the collegiate level and being successful.”
Expanding programs and improving facilities while adding other career opportunities into the renovation are part of the plan, according to Hale. Physical therapy, preventative care and wellness checks are among the district’s intention.
“I’m sure after meeting with OFCC we’ll know more of the direction,” he said.
Hale said the plan includes King’s Daughters Medical Center having a clinic for community health services and provide furniture and a nurse practitioner or doctor. At this point district officials are not sure whether medical expertise will be on site five or three days a week.
“It will depend on how many students and people in the community need their services,” he said. “We’re excited our community and kids won’t have to drive to different locations.”
Hale said they can arrive at school by bus or parents and attend medical appointments.
“They won’t be signing out to go to an appointment and possibly not make it back to school that day,” Hale said.
While an exact date when the work will commence isn’t known yet, the district must complete the grant-funded projects by December 2026.
“Our team members’ letters were outstanding,” Hale said. “I’m proud and excited to move through the next steps of this project and see how things come together. I think that’s something our district does well. We work well together. We do it for the benefit of the kids of our district and our community members. It’s a great place.”

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