- Michael D. Clark Staff Writer
After years of planning and passage of a levy by local taxpayers, Middletown School officials on Monday turned the first shovels of dirt on what will be the district’s newest school and a renovated high school.
The $96 million project will produce a new Middletown Middle School on the south side of the Middletown High School campus and will also bring long-awaited renovations to the 46-year-old high school.
The new school and high school renovation will be the most expensive and visible parts of a series of changes school officials hope to use to raise the infrastructure quality and academic standing of the 6,400-student school system.
By the fall of 2018, all 10 of Middletown’s school buildings will be new, or newly renovated in a span of 12 years, from 2006 to 2018. A new athletic track and stadium facility will also be constructed along the northern portion of the high school campus.
Dozens of local residents, business and community leaders joined city and school officials during a groundbreaking ceremony Monday at the new middle school site at 601 North Breiel Blvd.
The new, two-story school will be built just south of the high school in what are now athletic fields on the campus. The two buildings will be connected by a shared gym, which will be one of the largest gyms in Butler County once constructed.
“Schools are a reflection of the community and the community is a reflection of the schools,” Middletown Schools Superintendent Sam Ison told the crowd of more than more than 80 during the outdoor ceremony.
“That’s the reason why this project is more than just a facility being built. It is sense of connectiveness,” between the city and its schools, Ison said.
“The facility becomes part of the anchor for the community,” he said.
By 2018, Middletown High School is expected to be renovated and a new 135,000-square-foot middle school will open its doors. The new building will allow the school system to stop using its current Middletown Middle School, which opened in 1922 and is the oldest school building in use in Butler County.
The school projects are estimated to cost $96 million and are being co-funded by Middletown residents who passed a $55 million bond issue and a 0.26-mill permanent improvement levy in a close ballot victory in 2014.
That $55 million bond was later reduced to $45 million, saving taxpayers $10 million. The rest of the co-funding will come from the Ohio Schools Facilities Commission, according to district officials.
Middletown City Manager Doug Adkins echoed Ison’s comments about the intertwined nature of the relationship between the city and its schools.
“We are all inter-connected. And (the new school and high school renovation) will help the schools, but it will also help our businesses and together we will thrive,” Adkins said.
In lobbying for the shared high school and middle school campus, which all the district’s students in grades seven through 12 would attend, school officials have touted the campus’ proximity to Miami University Middletown’s regional campus across North Breiel Blvd. and the possibilities of enhanced, post-secondary school partnerships.
Besides the school construction, Middletown officials recently announced that later this month they will begin a series of community outreach meetings to gather residents’ opinions before launching a news strategic plan to improve the district’s academic performance, school security and overall operational quality.