Middletown Middle School students traveled through a time wrap Tuesday as they were transported from attending what was once Butler County’s oldest school to now its newest.
And next door, Middletown High School students were greeted on the first day of school with a radically renovated and expanded school building that looks nothing like the dated and dimly lit school they knew last year.
Classes opened smoothly, said school officials, for 6,300 Middletown students across the city district, which delayed its usual August opening to allow more time to finish the new campus for grades seven through 12 and its $96 million construction project.
The middle school students’ previous school, which was opened in 1923, was the former Middletown High School before serving its final years as the district’s middle school and is now scheduled for demolition.
Superintendent Marlon Styles Jr. spent some of the early morning fist-bumping the wide-eyed middle school teens as they entered their newly built school.
“Our students are back and our staff is excited and looking forward to a great first day … in our brand, spanking new middle school,” said Styles.
“We are just so thankful to our community for such a fantastic facility,” he said as students filed into the school, which features some of the most modern learning spaces in Southwest Ohio.
The opening of the new school year caps off a recent series of school and community events that demonstrated the new partnership between the city and its school system.
Last week saw a historic and enthusiastic convocation that filled most of the district’s new Wade E. Miller Arena with school staffers clad in Middletown Middie purple T-shirts. The pep rally atmosphere included a stirring speech by Middletown City Manager Doug Adkins that hit on the shared community theme Styles has been advocating since he started as superintendent last year.
And on Saturday, the public was treated to tours of the new school spaces after a ceremony featuring both school district and city leaders.
Emily Donner, a seventh grade language arts teacher, taught at the old middle school for 16 years and said the new building couldn’t be any more different.
“It has been utterly amazing,” said Donner as she greeted students walking into one of the new school’s open air, naturally sunlit learning pods featuring comfortable furniture.
“Looking out my windows and actually seeing green space and light and sun, it’s so amazing. The students are utterly amazed. Their eyes were so wide,” she said.
And high school students got their own dose of newness.
Middletown sophomore Hope Combs said, “it looks great.”
“Overall the school looks really good,” she said.
Senior Shadon Morris said, “when I first came in it I was, like, wow.”
“There’s a lot more space and more color to it all,” he said. “My classmates think it’s really impressive.”
Middletown High School Principal Carmela Cotter said students are impressed.
“There were a lot of ‘oh my goodness I get to go to school here,’” she said.