A first look at Middletown’s historic school construction project

Middletown Schools Superintendent Sam Ison found himself on the receiving end of a lesson this week on school construction.

The leader of the Butler County district listened intently as construction managers guided him in applying mortar and laying foundation bricks commemorating the largest school construction project in almost a century.

Ison then got a tour of the sweeping $96 million construction site at Middletown High School — accompanied exclusively by the Journal-News — and came away dusty and impressed.

“I feel very humbled and grateful that I’m part of this,” Ison said after placing two bricks — one for a new middle school and the other for an expanded high school — both signed by dozens of Middletown residents in support of the district.

“There are so many wonderful people that were part of this process of getting this underway and you can feel that excitement … about what’s to come,” Ison said.

Classes at the high school will start Wednesday with new traffic patterns — the main entrance to campus has been moved to Manchester Road from North Breiel Boulevard — as hundreds of students will begin the school year in classes at the nearby Manchester Annex School building.

The high school’s former main entrance and lobby area are walled off as is the southern portion of the school as the interior is gutted for renovation.

Next door to the high school is now a giant hole, which will eventually become a 2,000-plus seat sports arena. The athletic complex will connect the high school to a new middle school.

And the school’s current athletic fields, track and stands will eventually be moved from the southern portion of the campus to the northern portion.

All work is scheduled to be done by September 2018.

Though the two signed bricks are just small physical additions to the massive project, school officials say they symbolize a growing bond between the city’s schools and residents.

Signatures were gathered at a recent National Night Out celebration in support of police locally and nationwide. Later in the construction process, residents will have an opportunity to sign a main ceiling beam, making their monikers a part of Middletown school history well into the 21st Century.

The construction is funded by two tax issues — and state money for school construction — passed by voters in 2014.

“We are always looking for ways to involve our community in the building process and this worked out perfect with National Night Out,” said George Long, business manager for the schools.

“As far as what day in and day out life will be like, our staff and students are separated from the majority of the construction on site,” Long said.

“Between the renovation areas and the student areas a permanent wall has been built to insulate the noise and workers from the students,” he said, adding that the largely dry summer has allowed the project to stay on schedule and budget.

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