Thursday, March 29, 2001

Hamilton to replace schools

Board OKs all-new primaries

By Sue Kiesewetter
Enquirer contributor

        HAMILTON — Every elementary-age child in the Hamilton Schools would eventually go to a new school under a $158.9 million master facilities plan unanimously approved by the Hamilton Board of Education on Tuesday night.

        The plan, the most ambitious and expensive construction project in the district's history, represents the first major improvements made to schools since the 1950s, when Hamilton High, Garfield Junior High, Monroe Elementary and Cleveland Elementary were built.

    • Build nine preschool through grade 6 buildings, $89.4 million.
    • Improve Garfield and Wilson junior high schools, $21.7 million.
    • Construct a freshman school, $16.7 million.
    • Add classrooms and renovate Hamilton High and the Job Development Center, $26.3 million.
    • Raze schools, $4.8 million.
        It is expected to take eight to 10 years to complete. There are 9,630 students in this urban Butler County district.

        “This is a tremendous night for us,” said board President Larry Bowling. “It's been a long time coming. It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and we're anxious to begin.”

        The plan calls for abandoning Hamilton's 13 elementary schools and the McKinley Kindergarten Center. They would be replaced with nine buildings, each housing about 645 students in preschool through sixth grade.

        Seventh- and eighth-grade students would be divided between Garfield and Wilson junior high schools with George Washington Junior High closing. Projections call for 670 students at Garfield and 806 at Wilson, which will get a 17,610-square-foot addition.

        A 119,572-square-foot freshman school would be built for an estimated 716 ninth-graders at a cost of $16.7 million. Hamilton High's 96,944-square-foot addition is estimated to cost $26 million.

        The Ohio School Facilities Commission (OSFC) prepared the plan in conjunction with Hamilton School officials. The costs will be divided between the district (41 percent) and the state (59 percent).

        Approval of the plan was delayed nearly two months while OSFC and Hamilton officials reviewed projects already under way at schools. A new state law allows districts to incorporate improvement work from March 1999 or later into master plans, and count those costs toward the district's share of the project.

        In Hamilton's case, that amounts to at least $5 million, said Robert Hancock, Hamilton's treasurer.

        Parent Vicki Sparks said she is in favor of the plan and says it will improve the district's image and provide a better education for her three children.

        “I'm thrilled to death with it. This will give my kids the technology the surrounding schools have,” said Mrs. Sparks, whose parents and grandparents are graduates of the district.

        “There are certain things you should be sentimental about. Do I want to send my kids to a building with sentiment or new technology? I'm going to pick one that has air conditioning and heat and technology.”

        OSFC officials will meet with school leaders next week to decide where the new elementary schools should be built.

        “We want to make sure every geographic area has a school,” spokeswoman Joni Copas said.

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