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Expanded seating eyed for Toronto school gym

OATHS ADMINISTERED — Coleen Wickham, treasurer for the Toronto Board of Education; administered oaths of office Thursday to board members, from left: Julie Ault, William “J.J.” Liddick and Randy Henry. The three, who were elected or re-elected to the board in the Nov. 2 general election; and Jay Foster and Andy Reeves make up the school board. -- Warren Scott

TORONTO — The Toronto Board of Education Thursday agreed to add more than 200 seats to the Toronto Junior-Senior High School gym and moved forward with plans to create an outdoor classroom for the school.

The board supported a $115,617 contract with the H21 Group to install a new set of higher bleachers that will increase the gym’s seating capacity from 560 to 769.

Superintendent Maureen Taggart said because the additional seating will allow for social distancing, the board may use federal pandemic relief funds for the project.

But she noted if social distancing becomes less a concern, the bleachers can accommodate all of the school district’s students, which currently isn’t possible anywhere else indoors, and reduce the need to limit attendance at the high school’s commencement program.

Board member Andy Reeves said he is aware of the type of seating involved and has found it larger and more comfortable.

The board also agreed to advertise for an architect to plan an outdoor classroom using the junior-senior high school’s courtyard.

Taggart said such plans had been made for the area when the building was being designed but they were dropped because of lack of funding. She said the area also has some drainage issues that need to be addressed.

Taggart said the courtyard in the elementary wing of the building added in 2019 has been well used.

The board hopes in March to advertise for a contractor for the project, which also may be funded with federal pandemic relief funds.

As part of the board’s first meeting for the new year, oaths of office were administered to Julie Ault and Randy Henry, who were re-elected to the panel on Nov. 2; and William “J.J.” Liddick, who was elected to the seat formerly held by George Dobbs.

Dobbs chose not to seek re-election, and the three were unopposed in their election bids.

Employed as a physical therapist for Trinity Health System, Liddick said after living in Toronto all of his life, he felt a need to serve the community.

He and his wife, a Toronto schoolteacher, have three children in the school district.

In re-organizing for the year, the board named Ault, in her ninth year on the panel, as president; and Jay Foster, a past president, vice president.

Board members agreed to continue to meet at 5 p.m. on the third Thursday of each month, with its next meeting to be held Feb. 17.

The board also:

– Agreed to join the Coalition of Rural and Appalachian Schools’ Sunday Creek Horizons program at a cost of $10,000.

Taggart said through the program, the group lobbies state legislators for support of smaller, more rural school districts such as Toronto. She said its successes have included the allocation of funds for pre-school programs in such areas.

Taggart added 24 school districts in Jefferson, Harrison and Carroll counties are among members.

– Approved $8,270 for fencing at Red Knights Stadium by Gil Thermes Fencing of Wintersville.

– Approved a calendar for the 2022-23 school year that will begin on Aug. 17 for grades 1-12, Aug. 19 for kindergarteners and Aug. 22 for preschoolers.

It includes a Thanksgiving break from Nov. 23 to 28, Christmas break from Dec. 19 to Jan. 1, and Easter break from April 6 to 10.

Pending cancellations or delays, the last day for high school seniors in 2023 will be May 19, with graduation on May 21, a week earlier than in the past, while other students will finish on May 25.

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