School Closings Cause Community Concerns

Armstrong School District board directors listen to questions by Ford City Resident and Planning Commission member Tyson Klukan during a public hearing on the futures of Ford City and Kittanning secondary schools after their closure in June.

by Jonathan Weaver

Armstrong Junior-Senior High will open this fall, and Ford City Junior-Senior High, Kittanning Junior High and Kittanning Senior High will close in about five months.

But, middle Armstrong County’s economic future might depend on what happens to the three schools after they close.

During an Armstrong School District public hearing on the topic last night, Solicitor (and moderator) Lee Price said all suggestions are welcome.

“If anybody has any suggestions or proposals on what should occur with these three properties, they’re welcome to submit them in writing to the school board,” Price said. “I know that they’re open to any suggestions about what should be done. There has been no decision to tear down any building.”

Andrew Tylinski lives across from the current Ford City Junior-Senior High parking lot.

“I just hope that somebody – whether in the community or the (school) board can come up with some sort of idea to reuse the buildings or just get rid of it,” Tylinski said. “My biggest fear is that it will become a blighted property – a total menace to the town and the people around it.”

Board Director Paul Lobby – a Ford City graduate – said developers have expressed interest in the property since being designed Keystone Opportunity Zones and offering tax relief.

“We, along with the County, Planning Commission, Industrial Development, Senator White, have been active trying to do something that will turn these facilities into something productive for the community,” Lobby said.

Ford City Planning Commission Member Tyson Klukan asked the cost to tear down the schools. While he waits for a written response to that and other questions, he and other members hope for a meeting with county or school officials.

“We want to see economic development in Ford City and the county alone. It’s not just about Ford City – it’s about the region,” Klukan said. “It’s going to take all of us together to get a solid, concrete plan and move forward.”

Ford City Borough Manager Eden Ratliff also read some questions from Mayor Marc Mantini, including board directors’ thoughts on what can be done with the existing buildings

After a 10 minute recess due to an incorrect starting time listed in another publication Wednesday, Ford City Councilman Eugene Banks read a request from a resident proposing one of the buildings being converted into a community college or a learning center – such as the Bidwell Cultural and Training Center in Pittsburgh.

Banks’ sons – Eugene, Jr. and Jonathan – attended courses at the training center and studied culinary and security, respectively.

“And they have courses you don’t see in a normal college – like glassblowing and dog grooming,” Banks said.

Kittanning Junior High Principal Kirk Lorigan – a Kittanning High graduate who attended the meeting with fellow principals James Rummel at Kittanning Senior High and Michael Cominos of Ford City – said, while faculty and staff are thinking about the transition and students have received River Hawks T-shirts, their main focus remains the next five months.

“A lot of our students at Kittanning Junior High are excited about the upcoming possibilities. We all have a lot of changes we’re going to see – the job as junior high principal is going to be similar, but any time there’s a new building, there are new responsibilities, new people to get to know – but ultimately, the students will be resilient, and the teachers will certainly do everything that is needed to so those kids can learn. That’s what it’s all about,” Lorigan said.

More than a dozen residents attended the public hearing at Lenape Elementary last night – about equal to the number of school district administrators, school board directors and principals.


River Hawks Double Up Hampton, 4-2

Armstrong River Hawks Captain Christian Miller and defenseman Chase Steiner celebrate with forward Luke Gross after what turned out to be the game-winning goal during a 4-2 victory last night at the Belmont Complex in East Franklin.

by Jonathan Weaver

The Armstrong River Hawks have gained seven out of a possible eight points in the Class AA standings during the last four games – including during a 4-2 victory on home ice against division-foe Hampton.

“Very fast-paced game – one of the fastest games we had this year,” Coach Doug Anthony said. “I thought the boys stuck to the game plan.”

Team Captain Christian Miller scored the first goal for either team with Armstrong’s first official shot of the game – about 20 seconds into a first-period power play opportunity.

Armstrong’s defense held that lead for about 20 minutes with consistent puck possession before Hampton scored in the second period. But, Miller untied the game with his Class AA-leading 31st goal about a minute before the end of the second period.

An initial pad save by Armstrong Goaltender Tyler Smouse – whom Coach Anthony called the player of the game – squirted into the net to tie the game 2-2 early in the third period, but Armstrong withstood the pressure to crumble and scored twice in the final five minutes – Josh Oliver wristed a slapshot and Luke Gross added an empty net goal with about a second remaining – to seal the victory, 4-2.

“(Smouse) didn’t hang his head after (the game-tying goal) – he held it for a second or two and then went back in there and battled,” Coach Anthony said. “He’s getting better, and the team’s starting to play for each other.

“If we keep building momentum and working all of our systems, this will be a playoff team.”

Miller added an assist on Oliver’s goal to give him a three-point night, but he credited Oliver and Gross with the win. The win gives Armstrong two more points, but Hampton remains in second place and two points ahead of Armstrong due to an extra victory.

Miller said the goal is to keep up the momentum and lead the Eastern Conference. Armstrong plays current division-leader Shaler (only three points ahead in the standings) twice to end the regular season.

“It was definitely a good game for us in the standings, and a good push for us to get to first place,” Miller said.

Gross also had three points during the game in the way of a goal and two assists and Oliver a goal and assist.

Despite the final score, Hampton Head Coach Matt Ranallo was proud his team held Armstrong snipers to only 18 shots during the game.

“It was a tough loss – we gave it everything we got and put a lot of pucks on net. (Armstrong’s) a high-powered team,” Ranallo said. “We wanted to make sure we were really funneling the puck to the net.

“We enjoy these games – everybody gets up for them.”

That included Hampton’s Will Maguire, who scored the two goals for the Talons.

“We had all these chances – we just couldn’t finish them,” Maguire said. “We have to put this game past us – we know we played well, but just didn’t get the bounces we thought we should’ve got. We’re just going to push this in the back of our heads and move forward.”

Armstrong plays against Plum at the Belmont Complex at 7PM Thursday, January 26 during Senior Night.