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Fresh start: ESC board meets at new Opportunity School

Cheryl McGrath, special education coordinator, takes board members from the Educational Service Center on a tour of the new facility, explaining the new lobby area. Those next to McGrath, from left, are board member Robert Marra and Opportunity School instructor Matt Yanek. (Salem News photo by Deanne Johnson)

LISBON — With the new building for the Opportunity School opening this week, the Columbiana County Educational Service Center board decided to meet at the facility.

Between May and August, the staff of the Opportunity School repainted and furnished the building, using desks and other furniture obtained when the Stark Community College decided to move and ordered new furniture for their facility.

With soothing green and tan for the walls, the building includes several amenities to meet the needs of students, including showers and a calming room.

Cheryl McGrath, the director of special education, said there were a lot of smiling faces when students entered the building, some during an open house held last week and some to start school on Monday.

Sarah Underwood, who works at the Opportunity School and brings her specially trained dogs Miss Paisley and Jackson to help students, agreed that she did not think the students walked in knowing what to think.

“They thought it was small, a little smelly and dirty,” Underwood said of the reaction students had in May when they helped move some of the Opportunity School’s supplies from the school’s former home at the Juvenile Court facility. “When we brought them in on Monday, I think they were completely amazed.”

The staff members took the board on a tour and spoke about how much the students seem to be understanding this is their facility and have adjusted to helping to take care of it over the past two days.

Matt Yanek, who instructs the youngest students, said the new facility makes it possible for the older students to spend some time with the youngsters. In many cases, the students in his class do not have older siblings and this gives both of them someone in that role.

Board President Richard Stoudt congratulated the staff in making all those changes in such a short time this summer.

“I feel like it’s really a fresh start for us,” McGrath said.

djohnson@mojonews.com

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