EC School Board Gives the Go Ahead for Two Makerspace Labs

The Ellwood City school board granted conditional approval for makerspace labs at Hartman Intermediate and Lincoln High School in a 6-2 vote yesterday.

The motion, as passed, approves the administration’s plan for two workshops and will provide the necessary funding to adopt the programs for the 2016-17 school year. In addition, the board will hire a teacher for the Lincoln workshop.

This is a significantly different wording than originally proposed, which would have committed to providing $150,000, which the administration said is the minimum cost required to have two functional workshops. The board plans on launching a community fundraising campaign, which, if successful, will lower the cost to the district.

“We twill take the necessary steps to get workshops into both schools and are going to seek donations,” board president Renee Pitrelli said.

A makerspace lab is a workshop with equipment such as 3d printers and robotics where students experiment, create and design in a hands-on learning environment. Perry Lower Intermediate currently has one, and the administration, namely Superintendent Joe Mancini; John Sovich, Lincoln assistant principal; and Frank Keally, Perry and Hartman principal, want to provide Hartman and Lincoln with workshops for the 2016-17 school year.

In an informal poll taken at Monday’s agenda setting meeting, the board was divided 5-4 between two factions: those favoring fully committing and those favoring a more limited measure.

However, Pitrelli, previously in the partial-faction, seemed to be fully committed to having two functional labs. At Monday’s meeting, Pitrelli had mentioned that the district needed to act fast before other school districts create similar programs. Erica Gray, also previously in the partial camp, voted for the full motion.

Vice President Matt Morella and members LeRoy Cortez, Mike Nuepauer, and Kathy Pansera had all stated their support for the administration’s original proposal on Monday. Board member Anthony Buzelli, who also supported the motion, was absent.

Jennifer Tomon and Danielle Woodhead voted no. Both believed the district should only open a workshop at Hartman, which would allow students moving from Perry to Hartman next year to continue utilizing the labs. They also did not support hiring a new teacher.

“The children going onto seventh grade next year won’t be missing anything they don’t have,” Tomon said on Monday.

Woodhead and Tomon asked Pitrelli if the motion could be postponed until the goals of the fundraising campaign were realized.

“Our commitment must be made now in order for the administration to complete scheduling,” Pitrelli said.

The two subsequently asked if the motion could be postponed until a special meeting on Jan. 27.

“Two weeks won’t make any difference in fundraising,” Pitrelli said, to which another member added that Sovich has been seeking funding for two years.

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