Monday, September 8, 2003

Take a tour of two very different elementary schools



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Today, the new $10 million Montgomery Elementary School hosts an open house. Little ambassadors will shepherd around dignitaries including U.S. Rep. Rob Portman and State Treasurer Joseph Deters.

I toured the K-4 school last week. It's fabulous.

Skylights and windows everywhere, a high-tech media center (don't call it a library), a two-tiered computer lab.

The massive gymnasium is linked to a "cafetorium" - which reminds me of a mall food court - by a stage that is bigger than most classrooms.

There are plenty of extra rooms for teacher planning, science equipment storage, tutoring, music class, even occupational and physical therapy.

Every class has a phone and voice, data and image transmission capabilities. There's closed-circuit TV and 15 security cameras.

Teachers and students deserve the new building, Principal Mike Pastura said, after years in a darker, smaller patchwork building and trailers.

As I toured Friday, I kept thinking of another school I'd visited earlier last week, Carson Neighborhood School in Price Hill.

That K-8 school is in a building constructed in 1916. Its classrooms accommodate only half of its 721 students.

It has no library, auditorium, music instruction or even a decent-sized cafeteria. Its bathrooms are so scarce, classes line up, by schedule, to use them.

Carson's kindergartners and first-graders walk two blocks along busy Glenway Avenue because their classes are held in a nearby church.

And third- and fourth-graders work in trailers. At least those are air-conditioned; the rest of Carson isn't.

"The school doesn't have much, but it's a good school," said Kim Abner, whose son, Joshua, is a fourth-grader.

There's a spirit of care and generosity in this racially diverse school, where 80 percent of students qualify for free lunches.

On Thursday, a couple of the older kids were passing envelopes from room to room, collecting money for a teacher whose van had been stolen.

In some ways, Carson kids are luckier than some Cincinnati-area students, Principal Claire Kubiak said.

A state grant paid for a new and exciting reading program for grades K-3. Some of the upper grades are getting new math and reading books any day now.

The school also got 160 new computers.

There's a full-time psychologist, a social worker, a speech specialist and several instructional assistants who work with the children.

"There's great funding; we have great opportunities for kids to have the stuff they need to learn," Kubiak said.

As one of Cincinnati Public's most crowded schools, Carson was to have been among the first to be replaced using the bond levy passed last November.

A new building was supposed to open in 2005.

But some in the neighborhood objected because it would have taken one of the ball fields in a public park.

That killed the plan, without a neighborhood vote.

So, Carson students will stay squeezed for the next two years. In 2005, they'll swap buildings with another school while their building is torn down and rebuilt.

Finally, in 2008, Carson students will get the space they deserve. Why does it take us so long to at least level the field?

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E-mail damos@enquirer.com or phone 768-8395




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