Thursday, May 1, 2003

Growing Kings schools seek levy

By Erica Solvig
The Cincinnati Enquirer

DEERFIELD TWP. - Voters will decide May 6 if a 4.5-mill bond issue for building improvements is what the growing Kings Local School District needs to fix overcrowding.

The 28-year bond issue would raise $43 million to renovate and expand the high school and junior high on Columbia Road. If the bond issue is approved, the owner of a $100,000 home would pay an additional $137 annually.

District officials say the plan brings the district up to state standards and will ease crowding while giving more room to grow.

The redesign would double the size of 14-year-old Kings High School and would add 29,000 square feet to the junior high, which opened in 1967.

"We are already experiencing the situation of not having a building that's capable of meeting the needs of our students," Superintendent David Query said.

Mason-based Voorhis Slone Welsh Crossland Architects spent months assessing the buildings and talking to staff about their needs. Among the highlights:

• The high school would be extended to the north, adding a new, secure entryway visible from Kings Mill Road. The addition also includes a 1,700-seat gymnasium, 1,000-seat auditorium and more fine arts rooms.

• A main hallway would divide the high school's academic rooms from shared, public spaces. "We've got teachers already floating between classrooms," Query said. "And the only space large enough for testing is the auditorium."

• The junior high would be configured around the school's team-teaching concept. Each team's regular classrooms, computer labs and special-use rooms would be in a centralized area.

• The schools would share a centralized kitchen, but the buildings would have separate serving areas and cafeterias.

• The traffic flow would be improved, including separating buses from other vehicle parking, and making the entryways and exits more visible.

• The campus also would get enlarged athletic facilities, with new practice fields built on land district officials are trying to acquire from neighboring Paramount's Kings Island.

To parents such as Matt Warye, the plan is necessary to give the growing Warren County district the space to improve academics and offer other athletic and extracurricular programs.

"It is so much more than just academics for today's students, whether you're looking for your first job or competing for college," the father of two said. "They look at what else you've done. To do all those things, you have to have facilities to do that. Kings Junior High and high school simply does not."

But critics say the plan focuses too much on athletic and extracurricular wants, not academic needs. Two groups - Kings Greed and Kings Parents for Education - also opposed the $43 million price tag, and argued that a less-expensive plan would meet district needs.

"It's far too excessive," said Krista Darkins, a Deerfield Township mother of three.

"... I'm afraid that if we pass this bond issue, the public will become fed up and not pass future operating levies that we might need,'' she said.

Officials have said this plan should complete the district's facility needs for a while. In 2001, the district finished building two new elementary schools and renovated a third.

The public is invited to tour the high school to see facility needs from 11:15 a.m. to 1 p.m. today.


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