- Michael D. Clark Staff Writer
The 2017 calendar year will see major changes coming to Butler and Warren county school systems — some brick and mortar and others in the area of personnel and learning.
Here are some of the bigger developments that will affect local students in 2017:
FAIRFIELD CITY SCHOOLS
Butler County’s Fairfield Schools will have a historic year, opening three new schools by the time classes start in September.
“These changes will have a tremendous impact on our students, staff and community. It has been 20 years since the district opened new schools,” said Fairfield Schools spokeswoman Gina Gentry-Fletcher.
Construction of the district’s two new elementaries and a new freshmen school are on schedule, she said.
“We will open the new Compass Elementary School on Holden Boulevard, and our two oldest buildings — Central Elementary and the Freshman School — will be all new learning facilities,” Gentry-Fletcher said. “Central will open just behind its current site on Dixie Highway, and the new Freshman School will open next to the high school — making it a true high school campus.”
Dramatically shifting student attendance zones and new grade reconfiguration for buildings will lead the 2017 parade of big school changes.
“In September 2017, our students will return to schools in a newly reconfigured district,” Gentry-Fletcher said.
MIDDLETOWN CITY SCHOOLS
Middletown Schools will spend 2017 watching its own historic transformation of its high school campus, where a new middle school is rising next to its high school that is under-going sweeping renovations.
Both projects will be done in 2018.
“Our construction project is on budget and on schedule,” said Middletown Schools spokeswoman Destini Burns.
“Some of the current highlights include: Roofing on the high school, classrooms in the renovated section of the building now have drywall hung, classroom/office additions on the front of the high school have started roofing, and masonry work at the middle school,” she said.
LAKOTA LOCAL SCHOOLS
Less tactile but no less significant changes are coming to Southwest Ohio’s largest suburban district — the 16,500-student Lakota Schools — where a new leader will be in charge by this spring.
Lakota Schools currently has an acting Superintendent in Robb Voglemann and he may still be doing the job if the school board decides in March to hire him as a permanent replacement for former Lakota Superintendent Karen Mantia, who left the office in 2016 on medical leave.
“The search for Lakota’s new leader is a top priority for our school board in 2017,” said Lakota Schools spokeswoman Lauren Boettcher. “They’ve already spent significant time gathering input from the community and are now accepting applications to ensure they select the best candidate to continue our forward momentum. A decision is expected to be reached by mid-March.”
And by December 2017 or shortly there after, the Lakota district will have a new Boys & Girls Club now being constructed in Olde West Chester.
But 2017 will likely hold no major changes in Lakota’s finances, and that’s just the way district officials want it.
“Lakota has maintained a balanced budget for four consecutive years and we predict that trend continuing until 2020,” said Boettcher.
“A big factor in that is the state’s share of our annual revenue,” she said. “So we look forward to what this year’s biennium budget will bring and the impact it will have on our long-term financial planning.”
MASON CITY SCHOOLS
Mason Schools — the largest district in Warren County — will see a 2017 full of planning and then renovation of its massive Mason Early Childhood Center school campus.
By 2018 all the district’s pre-kindergarten through second-graders will learn at the center.
Looming over all the area schools is the variable that crops up every two years — the next Ohio state biennium budget — which is now more than $71 billion. State law requires state leaders approve it by June 30.
But that date is the only certain part of the often contentious legislative process that will determine a major portion of school financing for area districts through the 2017-2018 and 2018-2019 school years.