Friday, March 03, 2000

Gift of land could help school move

Bishop Fenwick offered site in Warren County

Enquirer Contributor

        MIDDLETOWN — A 66-acre site just east of Interstate 75 might become home to a new and larger Bishop Fenwick High School, thanks to a donation by a Fenwick alumnus.

        The proposed site would put Fenwick just inside Warren County and make it more easily accessible to the fast-growing areas of Lebanon, Springboro, Mason and West Chester than the current location in Middletown.

        A year-long study requested by the Archdiocese of Cincinnati last fall recommended Fenwick be moved to a new site if funding could be found. The finding was based on demographics of the region, increasing enrollment at the school, and limited space for expansion at the Manchester Road site.

        Middletown residents Bill and Debbie Akers have offered the Franklin Township site, just outside the Middletown city limits, for the expansion should Cincinnati Archbishop Daniel E. Pilarczyk approve the project. Mr. Akers is a Fenwick graduate.

        “Obviously, it is a very generous donation by a family that's been very loyal to Fenwick,” said Principal Father Charles “Chuck” Mentrup, who is heading a steering committee that is studying whether Fenwick should be relocated to a different site.

        Initial plans indicate it would cost about $12 million to build a new school for 600 students, Father Mentrup said. It would include a chapel, media center, performing arts facility, state-of-the art science labs, technol ogy, a gymnasium, athletic fields plus stadiums for soccer and football.

        There are now about 370 students in grades nine through 12 at Fenwick, up 48 percent from 1987's enrollment of 250. The incoming freshmen class was capped at 130, and has a waiting list, compared to this year's senior class of 85 students, Father Mentrup said.

        “It could be a win-win for our community by keeping Fenwick in Middletown,” Father Mentrup said. He said if the project moves forward, consideration would be given to annexing the land to Middletown to keep up the 47-year-old school's ties to the community.

        The location would allow easier access to students from the fast-growing feeder parishes in Warren County and southeastern Butler.

        Surveys are being sent to alumni, parishes and community members to get their opinions on the site, the expansion plan and whether there would be financial support for the project. Parents, students, faculty and staff, parishioners and others will also be questioned on the move. The findings of the committee would be forwarded by June to Archbishop Pilarczyk, who would make the final decision, Father Mentrup said.

        If Fenwick is relocated, it is possible that students at John XXIII Consolidated Elementary School would move to Fenwick, said Father John Civille, pastor at Middletown's Holy Family Parish. The sale of the 10.9-acre campus — which includes a rectory — could provide be put toward the cost of building the new high school, Father Mentrup said.

        Currently, kindergarten to grade five are located at the school's East Campus, on Central Avenue, formerly St. Mary's grade school. Middle school students in grades six through eight are in a wing that was added to Fenwick several years ago.

        “The logical thing to do is to move John XXIII over there,” said Father Civille.

        Although there may be an opening or two at selected grades, the elementary school is at capacity and has a waiting list. Moving the grade school to the Fenwick campus would allow the school to gradually add sections of each grade.

        “The big catalyst that is making any of this possible is the land,” Father Civille said.


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