David E. Malloy/For The Herald-Dispatch Gabby Abrams, 16, a non-verbal student at the Open Door School in Coal Grove, works on her personal iPad during classes earlier this week.

COAL GROVE, Ohio — Moving some 55 students from the old school building in Ironton to the renovated Open Door building in Coal Grove has been a seamless transition, according to Kendra Heim, Open Door principal.

The students, ages 5 to 21, don't have to deal with elevators or stairs like they did at the former Open Door School building on Lorain Street in Ironton, Heim said earlier this week.

"It's been wonderful for them," Heim said. "It's like a dream come true. There are no stairs in the new building. It's bright and new and colorful. It looks like a real school."

Part of the former Tri-State Industries building in Coal Grove was converted to hold the Open Door students, who went back to classes earlier this month.

The new building allows for two separate lunches for the students, which has been another plus, Heim said. "We can have lunch without disrupting gym time," she said. "It allows for better socialization."

"The parents love it," Heim said. "It's all on one floor. We have a new kitchen. It's so spacious. They also love the gym."

The Open Door Booster program also is trying to set up a 501(c)(3) to raise funds for outdoor playground equipment, she said. "We also may seek grants or local donations for all-inclusive," she said. "It's so expensive. A wheelchair swing can cost between $7,000 to $10,000."

Meanwhile, the Lawrence County Board of Developmental Disabilities, which oversees the Open Door School, is gearing up for a tax levy proposal that will be put before voters this fall.

"Folks have been supportive of the board for years," said Tim Nunnery, a spokesman for the board. "We're starting to hand out 'Vote for the Levy' signs and open a Friends of DD Levy headquarters" at 315 S. 3rd in Ironton, he said.

"It's the first new levy we've had since 1991," Nunnery said. It's also the first tax levy put before voters in more than a dozen years, he said.

The board supports programs for 500 county residents with developmental disabilities.

State mandated changes and increases in the cost of providing services are the reason for the new levy, Nunnery said. "Currently there are people on a waiting list," he said. "Without the levy, they'll go unserved. Every department will be affected if we don't pass the levy."

Board funds pay for about 40 percent of project costs, Nunnery said. The rest comes from Medicaid funding, he said.

The board has some 60 employees, including three new teachers at the Open Door School this year, Nunnery said.


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