The most common facial expression on the first day of classes among returning Middletown High School students was a wide-eyed look.
Many of the school’s more than 1,500 students saw for the first time Tuesday the radical renovations of the school, including new, high-tech classrooms and learning areas and an expanded cafeteria.
“It’s a whole bunch of changes with big open spaces with new study areas and touch-screen (white) boards that are really cool. Everybody loves it,” said Middletown senior Aubriana Bellard.
Tuesday morning also saw the Butler County school system’s 6,400 students start the 2017-2018 school year.
It will be a historical one for high school students as they will continue to move into newly expanded and renovated learning spaces periodically through the school year.
The high school’s makeover, which is part of a $96 million new school construction project that includes the building of a new middle school adjacent to the high school, will be complete by summer 2018.
“Everybody loves everything about the school,” said Bellard.
Fellow senior Zach Banks is grateful to be able to see many of the building changes — much of the high school’s old interior was dimly lit, smallish and dated — during his final year.
“The new building is really, really nice. You have a lot of open spaces with a lot of natural light pouring in so you get sort of a social learning environment,” said Banks as he paused between classes.
“This is really a learning space designed for humans,” he said.
And designed for the future, said Middletown Schools spokeswoman Destini Burns.
“We have so many opportunities for our students to learn and grow in this space. And we have an opportunity for our teachers to expand their learning outside of the classroom with this (learning) pod mentality with the design of the building,” said Burns in reference to the colorful and carpeted group learning areas already in use outside some of the newer classrooms.
The district’s new superintendent, Marlon Styles Jr., has launched a campaign of modernization among all the city schools and told district staffers during a back-to-school rally last week to get comfortable fast with changes.
The high-tech classroom features — which include a microphone system teachers wear on lanyards allowing their voices to project clearly in every part of the room — impressed veteran teacher Claire Kubiak.
“It’s awesome. Everything is new and this part of the building is fabulous,” said Kubiak, who teaches English as a Second Language (ESL) students.
“For instance I’m wearing a microphone right now that allows me to talk in a regular voice to all of the students and they can hear me … Our new smart boards that we are able to bring up the website, look at any video we want at our lessons. Students can interact with them by going up and highlighting items,” she said.
“The students were delighted that they had a new way to do things,” she said.