Thursday, February 6, 2003

Princeton schools to offer scaled-back bond issue

By Cindy Kranz
The Cincinnati Enquirer

SHARONVILLE - The Princeton City School District will build or renovate eight elementary schools if an $85 million bond issue passes May 6.

The school board Wednesday approved a facilities plan, a scaled-down version of options that originally included a new high school and middle school.

Superintendent Don Darby said he is optimistic about a bond issue passing, despite the drubbing that most area districts took in school elections Tuesday.

"I think the need is so well-defined. The figures look good. This is truly our residents' plan," Darby said. "The key to this, in my opinion, is we listened to the folks, and we backed off the `do it all' plan. At one time, we had a $175 million plan out there. What we heard from the people was, `It's too much.' "

This is the first bond levy for Princeton since 1956, when the district was created. The bond levy is expected to be for 2.84 mills. The owner of a $100,000 home would pay an additional $86.98 annually in property taxes.

Princeton has eight elementary schools and one intermediate school serving more than 3,200 K-6 students. Under the new plan, all eight elementary schools would house pre-K-5. Each community would retain an elementary: Evendale, Glendale, Springdale, Sharonville, Lincoln Heights and Woodlawn, as well as the Heritage Hill and Stewart elementary areas.

The junior high would become a middle school with grades 6-8. Robert E. Lucas Intermediate School would house students during construction of their buildings.

Board President George Keyser said the original plan was scaled back because residents said the priority is elementary schools. The average age of those buildings is 62 years. What's more, he said, residents felt the entire plan felt too big.

"I feel good about it," he said of the new plan. "It respects the taxpayers and still gets our priorities done ... We haven't asked for a Cadillac here."

The board will work with each community to determine whether to build a new school or renovate. Except in Glendale, he said, residents are 2 to 1 in favor of new buildings. Glendale residents have supported renovation to preserve their historic building, built in 1900.

"I'm pretty happy with that, because I wasn't sure how flexible the school board was going to be," said Sheila Warman, a Glendale Elementary parent. "I think they would have had a very difficult time passing a bond issue. I think people were thinking that building all new schools was a bit extreme."

If the bond issue passes in May, work would be done in phases with completion in 2008.


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