Friday, March 16, 2001

OK near for school buildings

Board may approve start

By Andrea Tortora
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        The first wave of major school construction for Cincinnati Public Schools since the 1980s could gain initial board approval Monday.

        The Board of Education will be asked to allow work at several schools before a plan for all 75 schools is finalized in December, Kent Cashell, business executive, said Thursday in a meeting with board members.

        Mr. Cashell would not give specifics on which projects would get priority, but a few already have community partners and sites selected.

   • Academy of World Languages: Possible renovation for use by Sands Montessori. Move program to renovated Hyde Park School.
   • Crest Hills: Renovate for use as a military academy. Close at end of 2001-02 year. Create year-round program at Douglass, and possibly Roll Hill, to replace the one at Crest Hills.
   • Fairview: Keep as German magnet school and renovate. Relocate to renovated and expanded Clifton primary building.
   • Hartwell: Renovate for use as K-8 building. Will not explore the K-10 option.
   • Hyde Park: Renovate and build addition for use by Sands Montessori, or by Academy of World Languages. Relocate students to other neighborhood schools.
   • Porter: Renovate. Use for 4-8 Cincinnati Academy of Math and Science program.
   • Rothenberg: Close school. Use as extra space in Over The Rhine. Renovate only if building will continue to be used.
   • Sands: Close school. Move program to a renovated Hyde Park School or a renovated Academy of World Languages.
   • Schwab: Renovate for possible use by Winton Montessori.
   • Washburn: Renovate. Consider for use as an Edison School.
   • Washington Park: Demolish and build new facility on same site.
   • Winton Montessori: Renovate and use for neighborhood school. Relocate program to Winton Place, Schwab, or primary building at Clifton.
   • Winton Place: Renovate. Use location for Montessori program or neighborhood school.
        Rockdale School in Avondale is in line for renovations, an expansion and a health center, in partnership with Children's Hospital Medical Center. A new K-12 school is planned for the East End, to replace McKinley and Linwood schools.

        The district is in the thick of updating its facilities master plan — a guide to work needed to keep buildings in good condition.

        While officials expect to spend 15 years on building improvements and construction, some board members said the district needs to begin work now.

        “People don't want to wait until the end of the year for decisions,” board member Harriet Russell said.

        “We need to break ground in the East End and at Rockdale to keep the community's faith in the district. Anything short of that is demoralizing to the community.”

        What takes time is ironing out the wrinkles. Decisions made at one school invariably affect students at another building.

        If the year-round school at Crest Hills becomes a military academy, a new year-round school must be started to accommodate the Crest Hills students.

        If new Montessori elementary schools expand, space must be available for a larger number of high school students at Clark Montessori or another location.

        Board member Catherine Ingram reminded her colleagues to consider all options.

        “Alternatives,” she said. “There has to be a way to say there are options. There is not just one option for any of these.”

        There is work going on inside the city's schools. More than $31 million in building repairs are complete or under way, including new roofs, windows, boilers and doors.

        “We are just trying to be very cautious so as not to spend money and then two years from now we are wanting to change an entire building,” said Michael Burson, facilities manager.

        Overall, Cincinnati's schools need at least $700 million in repairs and upgrades, according to previous studies. That figure could rise as a team of architects inspects each facility.

        The district has about half that amount available, from state school construction funds and money given to the district to offset the tax breaks given to the new Bengals and Reds stadiums.

        The rest of the cash will come from a bond issue, spokeswoman Jan Leslie said. Mrs. Leslie did not know how much the district would need to borrow, but said it would be several years before the district would go to the voters.

        In the meantime, the board will make dozens of decisions on how to remodel traditional schools into high-tech institutions. It will also create “community learning centers” or schools that partner with social service agencies and community groups, in the East End and at Millvale, Rockdale, Roll Hill, Washington Park and Windsor schools.

        “We grab the neighborhood school concept and really flesh that out and develop it,” board member John Gilligan said.

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