Wednesday, June 11, 2003

Six new schools urged in Middletown

By Sue Kiesewetter
Enquirer contributor

MIDDLETOWN - Middletown Schools should build six new elementary schools large enough for 503 students in grades kindergarten through five, a facilities committee has told the Middletown Board of Education.

The group's recommendation came after a series of public meetings last month. Once residents learned that the cost difference between building all new schools or building three new ones and renovating three others was $1 month on a $100,000 house, they favored construction, said Joe DiStaola, the district's business affairs director who co-chaired the committee with Tom Wiley.

"All of us go through the emotion of losing a Vail or Verity,'' said Wiley who has seen several schools close. "I understand that. It hurts. We've got to get over it. ...We must move on.''

The new schools would be built on the same sites as existing schools, which would be torn down. They will be placed at the McKinley/Taft complex, Mayfield, Creekview, Rosedale, Wildwood and Wilson/Roosevelt, Wiley said.

The two-phase plan the committee recommended Monday evening also calls for renovating Amanda for 518 students and Verity for 625 students in grades K-5. The price tag for phase 1 is $75.8 million which includes $2.9 million for demolition, $1 million to remove/contain asbestos, and $3 million to buy land and pay for temporary classrooms while construction continues.

Treasurer Edmund Pokora estimated it would take a 4.5-mill bond issue to pay for that phase, an annual tax increase of about $138 on a $100,000 house.

Phase 2, estimated at $80.2 million, addresses space needs for grades 6-12. It calls for construction of a high school large enough for 1,835 students and converting Middletown High School into a middle school for grades 6-8.

The Vail annex and Wade E. Miller gymnasium would house the alternative high school and Vail would be torn down.

"This is critically important for the children of our community,'' said Dr. Mark Frazer, school board president.

Before deciding to accept the plan or when it should be placed on the ballot, the board asked Pokora to prepare a spreadsheet comparing operating costs at existing schools with new buildings.

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