Friday, May 04, 2001

Growth strains education

Hamilton Township feeds four districts

By Jennifer Mrozowski
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        HAMILTON TWP. — The opening of Little Miami High School this school year freed up dozens of classrooms in this growing school district, but officials barely heaved a sigh of relief before considering the need for new schools.

        The high school is in Hamilton Township — now the fastest growing township in Warren County, the second-fastest-growing county in the state. Hamilton Township residents feed into four school districts — Little Miami, Kings, Loveland and Goshen — but Little Miami feels the greatest impact from Hamilton Township's growth.

[photo] At Little Miami High School, students travel the halls on their way to class Thursday.
(Michael Snyder photo)
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        This year's new housing in the township — which surpassed Deerfield Township's for the first time — have Little Miami school officials worried. In addition to millions of dol lars in building costs, new schools mean more staff and transportation costs.

        “Our greatest concern now is the elementary schools,” said Little Miami schools Superintendent Ralph Shell. “When you have new homes, you have young families who buy them.”

        Young families generally mean small children, he said.

        Last year, nearly 100 kindergartners from Little Miami's Maineville Elementary — also in Hamilton Township — had to be educated in a church because there was no room in the school.

        That changed when the high school was built:

        • The former high school became a junior high building for grades 7-8.

        • Grades 5 and 6 were removed from the elementary buildings into an intermediate building.

        • Two elementary buildings were converted from K-6 buildings to K-4 buildings. Maineville Elementary also was converted from a 1-6 building to K-4, allowing the kindergarten classes to move out of the church and back to the school.

        However, enrollment districtwide for this school year has already surpassed estimates by Steed-Hammond-Paul Inc., the architectural firm that designed the 135,000-square-foot, $15.6 million high school.

        Kings Local School District is growing, too. However, the district — in the midst of construction projects from a $23.5 million bond issue passed in May 1999 including two new schools and renovation of a third — will feel less of an impact than Little Miami, said Kings spokeswoman Linda Oda. The two new schools, South Lebanon Elementary and Kings Mills Elementary, have been built with room for growth, she said.

        In the past five years, Little Miami schools have grown an average of 77 students a year, from 2,321 kids in the 1995-96 school year to 2,707 this school year, according to the Ohio Department of Education.

        The high school, built for a capacity of 800 students, already houses about 700. However, it was also built to let capacity grow to 1,200 with added wings.

        But the elementary buildings may be the first to need more capacity. Kindergarten registration last month at Maineville Elementary was up 68 percent over last year, forcing a new kindergarten section, Mr. Shell said.

        “We have room for some growth in the elementary buildings, we hope, for a couple of years,” he said. “But if we get an onslaught of students, we would have to send students back to the churches. We don't anticipate that, though.”

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