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The year in Butler County schools: New places, new faces

For Butler County schools, 2017 was a year of new faces and new school places.

It was a period marked by the tragically early death of young, beloved “superhero” and four brothers who captured the world’s attention by being wooed by Ivy League colleges.

Two of the county’s largest school systems – Lakota and Middletown – hired new superintendents, while Fairfield added three new schools and Middletown opened state-of-the-art sports arena.

The year saw some local school leaders publicly erupting over the rise in state-mandated student testing, and their protestations drew state lawmakers’ attention.

Here are some notable parts of 2017:

New school construction

Fairfield Schools made their own history by opening three schools – Central and Compass elementary schools and Fairfield Freshman School – in August as part of $80 million upgrade to the 10,000-student school system’s infrastructure.

RELATED STORY & VIDEO: 3 new schools: 1st classes for Fairfield’s historic opening

And while Middletown Schools won’t be formally opening their new Middletown Middle School on the high school’s campus until August 2018, many renovated and expanded classrooms were put into use in the last half of 2017.

MORE: Middletown students left wide-eyed by updates to high school

Middletown’s boys basketball team played its first game at Wade E. Miller Arena on Saturday night against Lima Senior, which posted a 75-32 victory. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF (Staff Writer)

The district’s $96 million construction project is transforming the high school campus and includes the region’s most technologically advanced gym – the Wade E. Miller Arena – which opened earlier this month.

RELATED VIDEO & STORY: Middletown’s new hoops palace thrills fans

New school leaders

Middletown also saw the hiring of new Superintendent Marlon Styles Jr., the first African-American superintendent to hold that job as a non-interim position.

MORE: Middletown hires former Lakota school official for top job

Southwest Ohio’s largest suburban district – and Ohio’s 8th largest school system – also hired a new leader, as Lakota’s Matt Miller took over the top job for the 16,500-student district.

MORE: Lakota taps Matt Miller as next superintendent

Lakota made its own history in 2017 on the 20th anniversary of the first parallel high school building project that produced two, exactly identical high schools – Lakota West and Lakota East.

RELATED: Unique historic split: Lakota divides into 2 identical high schools

Lakota East drew international attention as four siblings — the Wade quads, Aaron, Zachary, Nigel and Nick – were recruited by Ivy League colleges for their academic prowess. The four eventually took Yale University up on its offer of full scholarships, and the four were featured on network TV shows and acclaimed nationwide and in international media after the Journal-News broke their story.

RELATED VIDEO & STORY: Lakota’s quads: Desire to stand out led to individual, collective fame

Fairfield Central Elementary School first grader Walter Herbert died after battling a rare form of cancer. The school district accelerated his journey to graduation with short visits to classrooms in all the grade levels. Central Elementary held a graduation ceremony for him Friday, Sept. 8, complete with cap and gown. Walter walked down the aisle with his family, including his parents, Wally and Emily (Staff Writer)

Fairfield’s ‘superbubz’ graduates before death

For far sadder reasons, the nation followed the plight of Fairfield first-grader Walter “Superbubz” Herbert, who before he died from Stage 4 neuroblastoma got to live his wish of graduating from high school during a special ceremony that drew hundreds of supporters in September.

MORE: Fairfield ‘superhero’ youngster graduates with highschool diploma

State testing blasted by local school leaders

Student testing was in the crosshairs of some local superintendents – most notably Hamilton Schools Superintendent Tony Orr and Monroe Schools’ Phil Cagwin.

Orr continued to criticize state education officials for what he described as inaccurate and excessive student testing that produced annual state report cards that he said do not reflect the many strengths of Hamilton’s 10,000-student school system.

MORE: Hamilton Schools leader takes unusual step to criticize state testing

Ohio’s newest youth club opens in Lakota

The highest marks were coming in for Lakota Schools’ new $6.9 million Boys & Girls Club, which will officially open on Jan. 4 but was dedicated and held public tours earlier this month. The club was built on the site of the former Lakota Union School in Olde West Chester.

MORE: New $6.9 million Boys & Girls Club in West Chester opens for tours

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