Tuesday, March 05, 2002

Little Miami schools in disrepair

Report: Replace buildings

By Sue Kiesewetter
Enquirer Contributor

        MORROW — All buildings in the Little Miami Schools except the new high school should be replaced with new schools, according to a preliminary report issued by the Ohio School Facilities Commission.

        But school officials say they will wait until after the May 7 election to discuss the report with the community or talk about space issues at the three elementary schools, and the new high school, where every classroom is in use.

        On the ballot is a five-year, 6.9-mill emergency levy that would bring $2.7 million to district coffers beginning in January 2003. If approved, it would replace a $930,000 emergency levy — first passed in 1992 and renewed in 1997 — that expires at the end of the year.

        Taxes on a $100,000 house would increase by $136 annually if the levy passes.

        “Before we can make any decisions about space issues, we have to know if we have money to operate,” said Superintendent Ralph Shell. “If we don't pass the levy, it limits our options.”

        Administrators are carefully watching enrollment numbers before deciding whether kindergarten in some buildings will have to be moved to churches or other space next fall. Another option would be to have art and music teachers travel from classroom to classroom, to free up space.

        At the high school, there is room for growth, but no electives can be added because every classroom is being used every period now.

        “We might have to make some hard decisions before long,” Mr. Shell said.

        District enrollment has gone from 2,707 students in October 2000 to 2,855, and is expected to continue to grow rapidly, with more than 8,000 new homes platted, Mr. Shell said.

        That growth will have to be considered when school officials, parents and the community begin looking at the state recommendation that calls for construction of a new middle school for grades 6-8, and three new elementary schools, each housing grades kindergarten through five. The existing elementary schools were built in the late 1920s and 1930s while the intermediate and junior schools were built in the late 1950s and '60s.

        “Tearing down all the buildings is not acceptable,” Mr. Shell said.

        Mr. Shell said the board would need to employ an architectural firm to assist in reviewing the detailed report and to create a district-wide facilities plan that would be acceptable to both the public and the state commission. The Little Miami Schools would be eligible in 2008 for a 28-percent reimbursement of construction costs for any approved improvements or new construction, Mr. Shell said.


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