Summer break forecast for schools: Dust, dirt, detours

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Summer break forecast for schools: Dust, dirt, detours

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Watch the construction action as Fairfield and Middletown school districts start building new schools. Only at www.journal-news.com.

The summer break “forecast” for two major Butler County school districts calls for major dust swirls, dirt and detours.

Fairfield and Middletown school systems have started major school construction projects with giant earth-mover equipment and dozens of building crews scrambling over some of their oldest school campuses.

The more than $180 million in total new school construction and building renovations for both districts will continue through the upcoming 2016-2017 school year with doors expected to open on four new schools in 2017 and 2018.

Fairfield Schools are adding three buildings — a freshmen building and two elementaries — to replace some of the oldest schools in Butler County.

Middletown is building a new middle school adjacent to its Middletown High School, which is also receiving major renovations and an expansion.

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.

District officials say many students at both school systems — whose combined enrollments total more than 16,500 — and school parents and staffers will have to get used to the dust, noise and pedestrian and traffic detours that come with massive building projects.

“There is heavy machinery at the high school site,” said Middletown Schools’ Business Manager George Long. “The Breiel Boulevard entrance is now closed to everyone except construction personnel. All public access to Middletown High School can be gained through the Manchester Road entrance.”

The high school’s main entrance canopy is gone and the adjacent front drive and parking lot are now rubble waiting to be hauled away.

“We are only a few weeks into construction and things are running very smoothly and as planned. We, of course, have all of the logistical challenges that happen at the start of a project, but with school being out, we can fine tune things before the students return,” in August, Long said.

Fairfield Schools’ construction work affects multiple campuses, but most of the building is on Fairfield Senior High School’s campus, which in two years will include a new freshmen school and a new elementary across Holden Boulevard.

Fairfield voters passed a $61 million bond issue in 2014 for construction of the schools and state funds are paying the other $19 million for the buildings.

Fairfield’s Central Elementary, which is the second oldest school in the county, is the other site for a new elementary.

The new schools will also bring redistricting of student attendance zones, say Fairfield officials.

“Construction is on schedule and under budget,” says Fairfield Schools spokeswoman Gina Gentry-Fletcher.

“Visible progress is being made, which should generate more excitement about the new buildings in the community,” says Gentry-Fletcher. “Additionally, our transportation department is hard at work designing a redistricting plan to help accommodate the new configuration of our schools when they open in the 2017-18 school year. We hope to share this information with our (school) families in the near future.”

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