North Point Education Services staffers Tuesday introduced their new home in the heart of Graytown to the public.
Minutes after the last school bell rang and students departed, staff stepped out into hallways to greet those who dropped by to see how the converted Graytown Elementary School will function in days to come. Early into the four-hour open house, guests included a postal worker, neighbors and business people from nearby communities.
The Benton-Carrroll-Salem School District sold the two-story building to North Point earlier this month for $8,000. School district officials shuttered the building and two other elementary schools in a mass consolidation effort meant to control budget costs after failed tax levies.
The deal was a win for North Point, the school districts it serves and the surrounding community, said Douglas P. Crooks, superintendent of North Point.
North Point is a regional education service provider that supports 27 school systems and over 38,000 students in Ottawa, Erie, Huron and parts of Sandusky County. Services include special education, alternative education options and preschool to professional development activities and gifted/talented programs.
The main office is in Sandusky.
Locally, North Point previously worked out of the old Camper school building near downtown Genoa. While it provided a place to operate, the building was not very education friendly for the services involved, Crooks said.
Leading the list of problems: a lack of a cafeteria, gymnasium and handicap accessibility.
Students ate lunch at their desks and had to walk down the street twice a week to use the gym at the Christ Community Church, which is the former middle school, according to Andrea Smith, the regional coordinator at North Point.
Here, children eat in the cafeteria and have full use of the gym.
The benefits of the gym are priceless especially when dealing with kids with behavioral problems.
“They can earn gym time and head down here for 5 or 10 minutes to shoot baskets or blow off steam,” Smith explained.
Cathy Hammoud, an educator of 40 years with 20 years specializing in kids with behavior or emotional issues, can appreciate all those benefits and more.
Her classroom, consisting of students in grades eight through 12, focuses on teaching difficult students. But, she points out, they also aim to better equip students to function with others should they excel enough to return to their home schools or venture on to vocational programs.
Hammoud trusts the change in environment can only heighten expectations for students.
“Look at that,” she said, turning her head toward the line of windows spanning her first-floor classroom. Outside, a bounty of colorful leaves blew softly in the wind of a sunny autumn day. Across the street sat a baseball field and fields of crops just beyond.
“At the old place, we looked at tires,” the teacher said, explaining her classroom in the former building was in the basement.
She also often had to interrupt lessons as semi-trucks and dump trucks en route to the quarry in Genoa made noisy stops at the intersection.
“You couldn’t hear a thing. This is so much better. And we have so much more room,” she smiled.
In all, there are about 11 employees in the building. Yet, other North Point staff such as occupational therapists and physical therapists maintain office space at the site and stop in regularly, Smith said.
Funding of North Point operations comes from a couple of sources. One is state funding.
“We only get $26 per student from the state,” Kirk said.
The bulk of North Point’s operating cash comes from selling education services to its member districts. And, the superintendent noted, the specialties are fine tuned regularly to stand above in the competitive educational services field.
Another source is grants such as the one administered through the Ottawa County Juvenile/Probate Court to underwrite the Student Achievement Program (SAP). This program helps the at-risk kids under court supervision continue their education in online classrooms.
“Many are seniors. We try to get them to graduation,” said SAP teacher Traci Riechman.
Court administrator Lori Clune said grant monies come through the Department of Youth Services and vary each year.
“It’s based on the number of felonies (accumulated) over a five-year period in our court,” Clune said.
The majority of SAP students fall under the truancy category. “Some of them are trying to make up two years of school,” she explained.
Juvenile Court Judge Kathleen Geisler stopped in during the morning on her way to work. Her schedule didn’t allow time for an open house visit, but she lives in the area and dropped by on the way to work, Clune said.
“That’s another nice thing about this - her accessibility to the place. It’s very convenient,” Crooks said.
“You know, she went to school here. That’s kind of neat.”