School security dominated the headlines in the last school year that also saw new school and stadium openings, student-led campaigns against teen vaping and national media attention for the first-ever banning of valedictorian and salutatorian honors at an area school district.(File photo/Journal-News)

Armed teachers, vaping, new schools: 5 big things that changed in Butler County schools this year

The Journal-News takes a look back at the top 5 local news stories from the 2018-2019 school year.

1. Middletown Schools opened in September with the unveiling of the largest school building project in the Butler County city’s history - $86 million - as the doors opened on a new middle school and a renovated and expanded Middletown High School.

VIDEO & STORY: Middletown students’ jaws drop at first look at new schools

Later in the spring the district celebrated the opening of a new track & field stadium - featuring a second artificial turf field for football practice, soccer and other sports for boys and girls – on the high school campus.

VIDEO & STORY: Special needs students sports event opens new Middletown athletic stadium

2. Five Butler County school systems were among the first in Ohio to attempt a new school security tax levy voted into law by the Ohio Legislature early in 2019. The five districts – Fairfield, Hamilton, Edgewood, New Miami and Monroe – sought a tax hike to pay for the fortification of their schools and funding for student mental health services.

The tax, however, was overwhelmingly defeated by voters in November. And the often contentious battle over how best to protect schools continues to rage on.

MORE: Voters reject new taxing option to pay for fortified schools

3. Madison Schools became the first in Southwest Ohio – and one of the first in the state – to arm trained teachers and staffers as part of its plan to enhance security on its K-12 campus that saw a student shooting in 2016.

MORE: Madison Schools’ arming of teachers prompts lawsuit defeated in court, likely appeal

The district’s ground-breaking efforts attracted national media attention and a lawsuit, funded in part by national anti-gun organizations.

4. Mason Schools in southern Warren County, which borders parts of Butler County, drew national attention with its announcement that it will no longer have a valedictorian and salutatorian at its high school graduation.

Officials at Warren County’s largest school system said the traditional honoring of the top two academic performers had led to an unhealthy and overly competitive environment among students.

MORE: Mason Schools to do away with valedictorian and salutatorian

The district’s action this week prompted an Ohio legislator to sponsor a bill requiring all public high schools in the state to have a valedictorian and salutatorian.

MORE: Ohio lawmaker: Make school districts have valedictorian, salutatorian

5. The nationwide issue of student vaping saw a battle-front open in Butler County schools as more local districts devoted campaigns – some led by students – and resources to try and curtail the rising addiction among many teens.

VIDEO & STORY: High school students talk to cops about how to battle teen vaping

Hamilton School officials enacting some of the strictest measures and punishments for students as the 10,000-student cracked down on student vaping.

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