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West Branch Welcomes Liaison from Husted’s Office to Share Plans and Gain Insight for Resources Available for Skilled Trades Program

West Branch Welcomes Liaison from Husted’s Office to Share Plans and Gain Insight for Resources Available for Skilled Trades Program

West Branch administration and some of the district’s industry partners welcomed staff from the Lieutenant Governor’s office to the district’s Knox building last week, discussing the opportunities the newly reopened space offers to the community.

Mike Kahoe, the Northeast Ohio Regional Liaison to Lieutenant Governor Jon Husted, met with Micki Egli, West Branch Superintendent, and some of the district’s many industry partners on Thursday, September 1, 2022.

The group toured the Knox building, which closed in 2020 as the district restructured its buildings to most efficiently service its students. With thoughtful consideration, strategic planning, and extensive community support, the Knox building is reopening this fall with the goals to utilize the space to serve the community, families, and the local job force.

Preschool and Daycare at Knox
As other area daycare providers have recently closed or are operating in limited space, West Branch’s reopening of the Knox building is providing the community with the much needed preschool and daycare services. 

“We recognized a long time ago the importance of a preschool program to lay the groundwork for future student success,” explains Egli. She goes on to speak to the need on the other end of the spectrum - parents’ needs for childcare services.

The additional space within Knox has given the district the ability to enroll more than 100 students (nearly double last year’s capacity) in the preschool program for the 2022-2023 school year. West Branch currently has a waitlist for their half-day preschool programs. In addition to the preschool service, Small Wonders will be providing daycare services in leased space within the Knox building.

Planning for Skilled Trades Program
With the growing demand for skilled trades, West Branch is planning the introduction of training for skilled trades in some of the space that remains vacant in the Knox building.

West Branch seeks to equip every single graduate with the skills, knowledge, and tools they need to succeed beyond high school, and this includes those who are not going to college, Egli explains. Through a great partnership with the Mahoning County Career and Technical Center, students are given the opportunity to gain high quality training for a number of skilled trades and technical careers. However, space can be limited due to increasing demand, leaving many students unable to access their program of choice. West Branch looks to offer an additional route to the skilled trades for these students and those who wish to remain deeply involved in the engaging culture at West Branch. This program is designed to put the tools to success in these students’ hands without ever leaving West Branch’s campus.  

The district has established a partnership with a number of local industry leaders to help establish a pathway to a career in skilled trades that are in demand in the area. Representing this group of industry partners on Thursday’s visit were Mike and Dawn Conny, owners of MAC Trailer; Dennis Postiy, MAC Trailer’s Corporate Vice President; and Jim Buttermore, a retired career tech administrator. 

Kahoe listened intently to the insights and advice these industry leaders provided as they talked about the programming they’re supporting West Branch to introduce. From the soft skills local employers seek in the workforce, to the technical skills required, Kahoe took notes during the conversation to relay to Columbus officials. 

With a deeper understanding of the programming West Branch looks to offer for its students, Kahoe also was able to provide information about potential resources and competitive grant funding opportunities that the district may be eligible to apply for. These are opportunities for the school to apply and advocate for resources to help maximize the district’s budget and the contributions from local businesses to the initiative. The skilled trades program at the revitalized Knox building is one of several initiatives that the district is seeking to raise funds for in the levy on the November ballot.  Egli further explained to Kahoe that despite the dramatic shifts in today’s society, the district still operates on a budget that was determined by the voters in 1976.  Funding is drastically needed to keep West Branch students in the race for excellence.

“We’re very appreciative of the community support we’ve had in being able to reopen the Knox space,” says Egli. “This building belongs to the community, and we want to see it return the greatest positive contribution possible to our community … our students, our families, our businesses, and our taxpayers.”