Monday, April 28, 2003

Princeton makes case for school bond issue

Increase would replace aged, outdated buildings

By Cindy Kranz
The Cincinnati Enquirer

GLENDALE - For the first time since Princeton City School District was created 47 years ago, voters will head to the polls May 6 to decide a bond issue for new schools.

The 2.84-mill bond issue would raise $85 million to build or renovate eight elementary schools, replacing the district's nine elementaries. The owner of a $100,000 home would pay an extra $87 a year in school taxes for 27 years.

Comparing Princeton, CPS, Franklin and Kings school bond issues
"One of the questions we get is, 'Why now?'" said Superintendent Don Darby. "It's not as though we had an impulse to do this. We've been working on this over six years, and in that time, we had three studies. They all ... said the same thing: It's time to do something about your aging buildings."

The average age of Princeton's buildings is 62 years. The oldest is Glendale Elementary, built in 1900, when William McKinley was president.

Administrators say:

• Electrical, plumbing and HVAC systems are outdated or crumbling.

It's difficult to install today's technology with outdated electrical systems. "Every time they plug in a hot plate (at Lincoln Heights) for cooking experiments, they blow a fuse," Darby said. "Now, that's not supposed to happen."

With inefficient heating and cooling systems, classrooms are either too hot or too cold, added Aaron Mackey, assistant superintendent. Five of the nine elementaries do not have air conditioning, but if the bond issue passes, all buildings will be air-conditioned. Boilers are so old that replacement parts have to be made.

• The size of the classrooms by today's standards should be 900 square feet to allow students to move around for hands-on learning. Most Princeton classrooms are 700 square feet.

"Kids don't learn most effectively by sitting in neat little rows. ... Kids learn best in an active environment," Darby said.

• Because of flooding, Sharonville, Springdale and Glendale elementaries have had to move classrooms out of their basements. Sharonville has two double-wide trailers that house four classrooms.

In community forums, the majority of residents said they want new schools, except in Glendale. Glendale residents are interested in preserving their historic building through renovation.

The district is working with two architectural firms that specialize in historical renovation. But, if it costs more to renovate Glendale than build new, the district will opt for a new building. A decision won't be made before the election.

Robbin Dell, who has a seventh-grader at the junior high and a first-grader at Glendale Elementary, supports the bond issue. It doesn't matter to her whether Glendale is renovated or built new.

"A 100-year-old building is very charming, such as in Glendale's case, but things fall apart. ... Improvements need to be made."

Some wonder why the district is building eight elementaries when enrollment is declining. The current enrollment is 6,200. Projections in 10 years show a drop to 5,800.

Darby said it would be hard to find land to build fewer, but larger elementaries.

And, he said, "A preponderance of literature tells us that kids learn better in smaller learning communities. ... Our elementary schools have, historically, been important parts of the communities we serve."


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