Tuesday, April 10, 2001

Kenton high schools about to be reborn

By Lori Hayes
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Multimillion-dollar projects are on tap at two Kenton County high schools to transform the 64-year-old buildings, both cited by state officials for below-par conditions.

        In an architectural rebirth, Dixie Heights and Simon Kenton high schools will display the “latest and greatest” in everything from the cafeterias to the classrooms, district officials said.

        “They will be new facilities, for all intents and purposes,” said Rob Haney, director of support operations for Kenton County Schools.

        Work begins this week at Dixie Heights while students are on spring break. Con struction crews are demolishing the inside of the old gym, which will be converted into a temporary cafeteria while the permanent cafeteria is expanded.

        Construction begins this summer at Simon Kenton with new windows and refurbished bathrooms.

        Dixie Heights in Edgewood was rated in “poor” condition last month on the Kentucky Department of Education's facility evaluation system. Simon Kenton in Independence was listed as “fair.”

        As the district finishes up renovations at Kenton and Taylor Mill elementary schools, the two high schools become the top two priorities on the district's facility plan.

        Both schools were built with the same design in 1937 and have received similar additions. The needed improvements are nearly identical, but this time the two schools were allowed to develop their own plans.

        Both projects — $14.3 million at Dixie Heights and $20.7 million at Simon Kenton — include new libraries, larger cafeterias, new practice gyms, more classrooms and new mechanical systems, from lighting to air conditioning.

        “There really is no place in the building that won't be touched in some fashion or another,” said architect Andrew Piaskowy, who with partner Ralph Cooper is de signing the Dixie Heights project. “They've been very well-maintained, but they're just old and need to be upgraded.”

        Dixie Heights' 45,000-square-foot addition also will include a bookstore, a student-run bank and more office space. The old gym will eventually become the new library, doubling the size of the old library, which will be turned into science labs.

        Simon Kenton is adding 37,000 square feet, including new parking areas to separate bus and car traffic.

        “From Ky. 17, it'll have a greater presence,” said architect Robert Hayes.


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