Tuesday, June 20, 2000

State's school criticism called excessive

By Andrea Tortora
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        COVINGTON — A state review called some of Covington's school buildings “appalling” and “distressing,” and concluded that more than half of them needed major renovations.

        Many Covington schools are in buildings that are at least 20 years old — some nearing their centennial — yet recent visits to these facilities by the Enquirer showed the structures were sound, although a little crowded and overused.

        The state's review calls for schools to upgrade their electrical wiring and improve energy efficiency. They also must provide better handicap accessibility and ease crowding.

        Don Shelton, Covington's general director of operations, said the state report exaggerates.

        “Our buildings are old,” Mr. Shelton said.

        “This report stretches it a bit. They could all use some remodeling. But we have tried to keep them up.”

        The state, which inspected Covington's schools in May, also recommends the district create a preventive maintenance program and long-range facility-needs plan. If it doesn't, the state warns, Covington could find its schools in the same di lapidated state as many Cincinnati Public Schools, where ceilings are crumbling, floors are warped, windows are cracked and furniture is in poor condition.

        A 1998 study found that Cincinnati school facilities need nearly $700 million in repairs. After a decade of minimal maintenance and emergency repairs, Cincinnati school administrators are finally making dramatic improvements after borrowing against $200 million that Cincinnati and Hamilton County officials have pledged to fix the buildings.

        But Mr. Shelton said that Covington school buildings are “nowhere near” the condition of Cincinnati's schools. Covington's buildings are not falling apart. There are no crumbling walls and hole-pocked ceilings. The plumbing works.

        Mr. Shelton also complained about the state's call for a facilities plan. He produced a large red binder that contains the district's long-range facilities plan, created in 1996 and due for an update this year.

        Additions and renovations under way at some of the schools were not mentioned in the report.

        A major addition to Sixth District Elementary is continuing. And Glenn O. Swing Elementary — slammed by the state for classes held in the cafeteria — is scheduled for new space construction this coming year.

        But the state report says 60 percent of Covington's schools need major renovation or replacement.

        The report also said:

        „Custodial performance varies from facility to facility. The state said custodial improvements are needed at all facilities except Glenn O. Swing and Latonia elementaries.


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